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In the Know: Police trained for mental health crisis

I continue to be reminded why Minnesota is such a great place to work as a police officer. We continue to make improvements and adjustments that keep our members of law enforcement well trained and well equipped with the proper tools to respond to a variety of situations.

In January of this year, the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, approved several new learning objectives that took effect July 1. The POST Board is the regulatory body that oversees the license for peace officers in the State of Minnesota. To maintain an active license, an officer must complete a minimum of 48 hours of training in a three-year license period. Prior to July 1, the only required topics were use of force and emergency vehicle operations. These additional courses cover a wide range of topics and will aid in improving law enforcement efforts to connect with their communities.

All agencies in the State of Minnesota are now required to provide in-service training to its officers regarding crisis intervention and mental illness. I am proud of our agency as we are a bit ahead of the curve on this one. All of our sworn staff have attended a 40-hour course on crisis intervention and mental health awareness. Updated training is always valuable of course, but I have seen members of the Alexandria Police Department respond with compassion and kindness to those members of our community that are in crisis and I believe that this new learning objective will only improve these interactions.

The POST Board is also mandating additional training on topics such as implicit bias, community diversity and cultural differences. Once again, I am proud to say that I believe that the Alexandria Police Department is out in front of this. In the fall of 2017, our agency received training from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) regarding implicit bias. The ADL is a national organization that provides training and resources for a host of organizations that are looking to provide tools to combat bigotry, discrimination and racism and help foster positive community interactions. The POST Board recognizes that this type of training, in order to be effective, must be revisited on a regular basis. I believe that the ADL training was only the tip of the iceberg for our agency, but I am happy that we are not lagging behind on such an important issue.

I think that it's important to try and view these changes in a positive sense. Sometimes when things are mandated, there can be some pushback, but I don't see that happening here. The State of Minnesota is not entirely free from some of these issues, although it would seem that we are better off than many parts of the country. I would also like to think that we are maybe a bit better off here in Alexandria than other parts of the state; we of course need to work hard to help avoid those problems. I have the utmost confidence that these new learning objects will be beneficial to our agency and that our men and women will continue to provide a high level of police service to the community.

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Rick Wyffels is the Alexandria police chief. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.