BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Law enforcement agents from across Louisiana met Wednesday morning at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge to discuss how officers handle people with mental health problems.
The event was called "One Mine Symposium: A Response to Persons Affected by Mental Illness."
Gov. John Bel Edwards, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, and Sen. Bill Cassidy led off the event by stressing the need for more effective training. They said an officer may encounter an apparently dangerous person, who may not be a threat at all, but has poor mental health.
One of the guest speakers was Police Chief Louis Dekmar from LaGrange, Georgia. He said his department reduced the number of officer-involved shootings over the past decade by making it mandatory for officers to get training in mental health.
"They can use calming techniques and then de-escalation techniques, so that instead of taking a situation where an individual is aggravated and agitated, by employing these techniques you're able to de-escalate the situation," Dekmar explained.
"You all are first responders; you get called out there and you're interacting with these people first," Edwards added. "And we don't always, in fact, we've done a very poor job of giving you the tools that you need, the resources that you need, to be able to place those people properly."