DeKalb forms mental health roundtable to help police de-escalate incidents

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The DeKalb County Police Department has formed a mental health roundtable to develop training strategies to help police peacefully handle incidents concerning the mentally ill.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said the roundtable was formed after speaking with the parents of Quintas Harris, a 27-year-old mentally ill veteran who died after a shootout at an apartment complex with police on Aug. 3. Harris reportedly had a history of mental illness.

“I had a private meeting with the mother and father of Quintas Harris and promised the parents that DeKalb County would do more to protect and save the lives of residents with mental illnesses,” said Thurmond.

DeKalb Assistant Police Chief Sonya Porter, who is responsible for police training, is overseeing the roundtable committee of more than two dozen mental health experts.

The mental health roundtable committee held an initial meeting in September and will meet regularly to assess encounters and provide guidance on how to recognize and respond to residents with mental health issues, officials said.  The group will also identify and provide a list of available resources such as referrals and treatment that can be given to residents.

More than half of the county’s sworn officers have completed crisis intervention training (CIT), instructional training involving various mental health topics, county officials said in a news release this week.

Thurmond said he plans to request funding in the county’s 2018 budget to offer CIT training to all DeKalb police officers.

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