Baltimore police put a critical new pilot program to the test this afternoon, with successful results.
Officers responded to a barricade situation on Pennsylvania Avenue near Martin Luther King Boulevard around noon today, according to a release. There they found a 38-year-old woman and her children, ages 6 and 9, holed up in the house, with the mother threatening to commit suicide.
At one point, police said, the woman had sent pictures of a gun in her possession to family members. Police later found it was a replica.
Fortunately, the department’s Crisis Response Team was able to create “familiarity” with the woman and get her to leave the home unscathed and without harming her children, police said. Both of her kids were placed in custody of other family members.
Once she was safe, authorities took her for an emergency evaluation. She isn’t facing any criminal charges as of Wednesday.
Police unveiled the Crisis Response Team in July as a way to “improve police responses to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.” The team includes officers who’ve received special training for such situations, as well as licensed clinicians. The department has been piloting the program in its Central District for several months.
The effort also serves as a way to divert people with behavioral health issues away from prisons and hospitals by instead using intervention and follow-up meetings while they receive treatment.
The U.S. Justice Department noted in its scathing investigative report published last August that the Baltimore Police Department habitually “uses excessive force against individuals with mental health disabilities or in crisis.” Federal investigators blamed the regularity of “unnecessarily violent confrontations” on a a lack of training and improper tactics, and said the department hasn’t done enough “to avoid discriminating against people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities.”
“We started this team for situations like this,” Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement today. “Pairing a sworn officer with a licensed clinician is a deescalation method necessary in 21st century policing.”
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