LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jail can often times become a revolving door for the mentally ill. Since 2002, the Louisville Metro Police Department has been training its officers on how to deal with these men and women, but is it actually working?

“Police officers need to know that everybody has issues,” Sgt. Pam Oberhausen said.

Issues that sometimes are discovered in a matter of seconds. Last summer a Sudanese man, who previously tried committing suicide, was shot and killed by an officer.

“He backs into his police car. From his perspective he backed up as far as he could back up. At that point the man was swinging the flag pole down towards his head and he really at that point had no other option but to use deadly force,” Chief Steve Conrad said.

While Chief Conrad said not much more could have been done in that situation, he says finding ways to peacefully deal with mental illness remains a strong priority.

Thursday night, Sgt. Oberhausen along with Chief Conrad gave an update to local members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. When it comes to officers coming in contact with the mentally ill, LMPD says its Crisis Intervention Training is paying off.

“They've definitely had to use less deadly force in situations that involve someone who was in some sort of crisis, a mental crisis,” Chief Conrad said.

“How I know it’s working is 98 percent of the time we take people to the hospital. We use force less than two percent,” said Sgt. Oberhausen.

She says with nearly 3,000 mental illness reports a year, only about five of those people end up in jail.

Sgt. Oberhausen has been training officers since 2002 to slow down, step-back and de-escalate in certain situations. She said mental illness is not a get out of jail free card, but a chance to respond to a community need.

“If they need help then our job is to get them help, not to take them to jail,” Sgt. Oberhausen said.

“And really bring them from the catastrophe of their illness to recovery and meaningful activity in their life,” said Jean Henry, Executive director of NAMI Louisville.

She added officers have helped her sister who has schizophrenia, saying LMPD's training has been a Godsend.

“They knew that she was having an episode and they knew that de-escalation was going to work better than force,” Henry said.

All new LMPD officers now undergo a week of mental illness training, and, according to Chief Conrad, all patrol officers are also trained.

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