Boise, August 8, 2011 - Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson introduced a new officer training model this week before an audience of more than 100 community leaders and veterans activists. The new training program is meant to help police officers responding to emergency calls recognize if the individual involved is a veteran in crisis, and if so, if possible, use training and tactics to safely calm the situation and assist the veteran with finding critical support services.
The training is called the Veterans Sequential Intercept Model. It's part of the training being offered to officers through the Boise Police Crisis Intervention Team.
"Officers are finding all too often that the war isn't ending for some of our soldiers returning home. For some, the war rages on, emotionally, physically, mentally," said Chief Masterson. "When that internal, very private combat escalates, police officers in Boise and around the country are finding themselves involved in volatile, unpredictable and dangerous situations."
"Responding officers must protect themselves and innocent citizens. But when it's possible, if we can avoid using weapons and use our training and tactics to talk a person down from crisis, we believe we can save lives, said Chief Masterson.
A video introducing the training and the reasons behind it was debuted this week. It features Sgt. George Nickel, a decorated Iraqi war veteran who had a near-deadly encounter involving firearms with Boise Police in 2009. In the video, Sgt. Nickel recounts his struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, and the events in his life and military career that led to him to take a firearm and shoot at neighbors doorways. That led to officers firing at Nickel.
"Fortunately, Sgt. Nickel survived," said Chief Masterson. "So many good things and increased understanding have come from that day."
Sgt. Nickel is now attending Boise State University earning a degree in social work, and is very active in the Idaho Veteran's Network counseling other veterans. Sgt. Nickel played an important role in the development of the Boise Police Veterans Intercept Training Model.
"We owe it to our returning veterans to see that they are not only welcomed home, but embraced with understanding and support so their return is healthy, safe and successful." said Chief Masterson.
The video also features Boise Police Sgt. David Cavanaugh who worked with many veterans and mental health organizations to develop the Veterans Sequential Intercept Model. Sgt. Cavanaugh is a CIT instructor for law enforcement. Sgt. Cavanaugh explains lessons learns and useful tactics for police officers training specifically for interacting with individuals dealing with PTSD. The key for officers says Sgt. Cavanaugh, is to respond safely, using good tactics; use effective communication skills to initially de-escalate the situation; then seek a longer term solution for the person in crisis. One of the basic tenants of Crisis Intervention Teams are connecting people in crisis with appropriate resources.
The Boise Police Department will give the training video to Boise area members of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI will market and distribute the video to police agencies nationwide.