How are local law enforcement officers are trained to deal with the mentally ill?

Wake County News

On Saturday night a Raleigh police officer shot and killed a man in a shopping center parking lot. We’ve learned that man had a history of run-ins with the police and also suffered from mental illness.

On Tuesday night friends and family held a vigil to remember Soheil Mojarrad.

CBS 17 has learned Mojarrad was in car accident about 10 years ago and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Friends and family say he’s struggled with mental illness ever since. We wanted to know more about how local law enforcement officers are trained to deal with the mentally ill.

“There’s police out here, but they’re shooting,” said a 911 caller. “I don’t know if y’all know it.”

This is a 911 call from the night 30-year-old Soheil Mojarrad died. Officers initially responded to the shopping center after a Sheetz employee called to say Mojarrad was trespassing but the Sheetz security guard said no one was in danger.

Things quickly escalated. Radio traffic captured the moments right after Mojarrad was shot.

“Give me an ambulance en route Raleigh,” an officer said over radio traffic. “I’ve got shots fired. He’s armed with a knife. He pulled a knife.”

“As it relates to these incidents, they’re always tragic,” said Roosevelt Richard, Alliance Health Criminal Justice Specialist. 

Alliance Health offers crisis intervention team training six times a year.

“We really encourage people to take it slow,” Richard said. “Use time and your tools, meaning your team, to gain as much information before you react.”

It’s a 40 hour course that teaches first responders how to interact with the mentally ill.

“We want them to start using their de-escalation techniques which generally includes having a conversation with them, letting them know you’re there to help,” Richard said. “Introducing yourself multiple times if necessary because sometimes if someone is experiencing auditory hallucinations or something like that, whatever you’re telling them might not register the first time.”

Richard says they’ve been holding these CIT courses in Raleigh since 2005.

“Our area departments are committed,” Richard said. “They have a presence in all of our CIT trainings especially Raleigh Police Department. Chief Deck Brown also committed to having all of her staff both civilian and sworn training mental health first aid which is an 8 hour shorter course.”

CBS 17 reached out to Raleigh police to find out what kind of training their officers receive. We were  given the following statement on Wednesday:

“More than 20 years ago, the Raleigh Police Department adopted and implemented Department Operating Instruction (DOI) 1109-12 that specifically addresses police response to persons affected by mental illness. Included with this DOI is a training component for officers and civilian employees who, during the course of performing their duties, may have to assist or deal with persons who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled. The training is provided at the entry level during Basic Law Enforcement Training, with documented refresher training provided at least every three years. Also, 390 Raleigh Police officers successfully completed a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) course.”

We also asked if the police officer involved used his taser. Raleigh police told CBS 17 it is an ongoing investigation.

CBS 17 has learned the officer involved in this shooting was wearing a body camera but it wasn’t activated. Police have not told us why. The SBI is investigating. The report on the investigation is expected to be released on Friday.

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