The Minneapolis Police Department is considering the use of a “ride-along” mental health specialist who would accompany police officers responding to mental health crises. City Council members have received several concerns that police officers aren’t properly trained to respond to calls involving mental health emergencies.
The department currently utilizes a 40-hour workshop to train officers about interactions relating to mental health, but less than half of Minneapolis officers have participated.
Collaboration between mental health providers and police officers has been well established as a best practice technique. Expecting a police officer to be able to respond appropriately to the variety of mental health emergencies without proper training is unfair to officers and those in crisis.
Duluth has already successfully implemented a ride-along program. We urge the MPD to establish a similar system as quickly as possible. In the interim, MPD should require all officers to participate its mental health training course. Forty hours will not sufficiently prepare an officer for the myriad of mental health interactions that the police will encounter. It is disappointing that all officers are not currently equipped with at least the bare minimum of knowledge the training provides.
As tensions between the MPD and some Minneapolis community members continue to rise, we believe the implementation of programs such as a mental health ride-along
service could be instrumental in repairing these relationships. Our local community will become safer only when the police are able to acknowledge gaps in their skillset and actively remedy them.