Washington County deputies undergo crisis intervention team training

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SANDERSVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — Washington County deputies are trying to to get a better understand of mental illness after three deputies charged with the murder of an unarmed, mentally-ill man was granted immunity.

Washington County Sheriff’s deputies have undergone crisis intervention team training for a week. The training helps recognize those with mental illness and how to assist in such situations.

Litenuent Chuck Simmons with Georgia Public Safety Training Center says 90 percent of calls involve a person with mental health disorders, drugs, or alcohol abuse.

According to Simmons, nearly 60 percent to 70 percent of inmates have a mental health disorder.

The lieutenant says that’s why having a prepared deputy is important.

“Get the officers to become an advocate for the mental health field. Instead of just arresting it or just taking it to the county line. Years ago that’s how that was taken care of because we didn’t know what to do with it,” said Simmons.

The Washington County Sheriff Office training came after a judge granted immunity to the three deputies charged with the tasing death of Eurie Martin, an unarmed, mentally-ill man in 2017.

Simmons says a lack of training and knowledge seems to be the issue when dealing with crisis situations.

According to Ashley Allen, Director of Macon-Bibb County Service at River Edge Behavioral Health, when dealing with those with mental health challenges, you must be able to listen and ask questions.

Allen says mental health challenges can range from a number of issues. She says deputies should take their time when communicating and try to be empathetic.

“They’re either hearing things or seeing things that are not there. Their thought process can be very disorganized, they also can be experiencing some degree of paranoia,” explained Allen.

Deputy Robert Butler says the week-long training taught him to push communication and verbal cues.

Butler says he and other deputies went to places like the Oconee Center for Behavioral Health for real-life experiences and scenarios, and a better understanding.

“Introduce ourselves, try to calm the person down,” said Butler. “What we are trying to get away from is incarcerating someone when a crime has taken place ”

Simmons says this training has been around since 2006. He says hopefully all deputies in Central Georgia can take the class if they haven’t already.