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Salt Lake police force gets national recognition

/ Source: The Associated Press

Salt Lake City's police have received national recognition for its training on how to deal with mentally ill people.

The U.S. Justice Department's Council of State Governments Justice Center on Friday designated the department as one of six law enforcement agencies in the nation that will serve as a "learning site," the Deseret News reported. The six police learning sites will offer peer-to-peer guidance for other criminal justice and mental health agencies, the government said.

A 2009 study found that 14.5 percent of men and 31 percent of women entering local jails had serious mental illnesses, more than three to six times higher than the rate found in the general population, according to Salt Lake police.

In 2001, the department began offering one-week courses that teach officers how to detect a person with a mental illness, as well as how to determine what illness the person may have and the proper way to interact with the person.

The justice center cited the department's successful program that uses a range of effective responses.

"Our Crisis Intervention Team training program has made officers and the police department more effective in dealing with individuals suffering a mental health crisis," Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank said in a statement.

"We appreciate the opportunity to serve as a learning site for our colleagues in other agencies so they can build on our successes and learn from the obstacles we have overcome," he added.

In December, South Jordan police shot and killed a man near the Mormon church's Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple afer he ran toward a group of people with a loaded shotgun. The man's family told police he had a history of mental illness.

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Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com