Police train to de-escalate interactions with veterans in crisis

A combat veteran in a role-playing exercise training Austin police officers on how to de-escalate with a veteran in crisis. Sept. 22, 2016 (KXAN Photo)
A combat veteran in a role-playing exercise training Austin police officers on how to de-escalate with a veteran in crisis. Sept. 22, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A simulation at the Austin Police Department Training Academy on Thursday took officers through the basics of U.S. military culture, traumas, triggers and stressers, as well as de-escalation techniques.

Actual combat veterans took part in the exercise.

Sean Hanna, director of the Veterans Mental Health Program at the Texas Veterans Commission, says the training starts with what officers already know: officer safety is paramount. “The veterans are a completely different culture,” Hanna said. “When they come home there can oftentimes be difficulty reintegrating into a society that views the world differently.”

Last session, the legislature passed House Bill 1338. It requires the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to work together with the Texas Veterans Commission to create tactical response training for law enforcement officers in dealing with trauma-affected veterans. “If [police] are encountering an individual who can be better trained than they are and have more experience putting actual rounds down range, there can be a mutual respect,” Hanna explained. “They’ve both worn the uniform, they’ve both served. If they can rely on that mutual respect of service, we can teach them to de-escalate a situation rather than escalate it.”

“Texas is leading the way when it comes to taking a role in serving our veterans and dealing with their mental health issues, unlike any other state,” he continued.

Unfortunately, he says, the justice system is oftentimes a veteran’s first interaction with the government.

This is the first statewide training program of its kind.

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