UTRGV professor calls for more mental health training for police after fatal deputy-involved shooting in Weslaco
A criminal justice expert at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is weighing in on a deputy-involved shooting in Weslaco that resulted in the death of a 25-year-old man.
According to Hidalgo County Sherriff Eddie Guerra, the incident happened after deputies responded to a domestic violence call Wednesday morning.
Guerra said his officer had numerous dealings with the man regarding domestic violence; the man's father says his son suffered from several mental illnesses.
Chair and Keith A. Ferguson Endowed Professor at UTRGV, Dr. Gordon Crews, says while Wednesday's shooting was tragic, it's not surprising, given the way deputies are trained.
Crews says situations like that should trigger a mental-health-focused response.
"You either have the officers that really have the special mental health training," Crews said. "Or actual mental health professionals."
But when it comes to mental health, another Valley police department says they're staying on top of it.
Pharr PD has implemented a mental health unit with five officers with 40 hours of mental health training and one mental health clinician.
"It has given our officers a better option than just an arrest," said Pharr Police Chief Andy Harvey, adding that in less than a year, they've seen positive results.
"Have the calls decreased? Yes. Mostly because they have a direct relationship with one of our mental health officers," Harvey said.
"When we build relationships, when we build trust, more than likely when they need help, they're going to comply with us."