Valley Law Enforcement Undergoing Mental Health Training
BROWNSVILLE – A new law will require Rio Grande City law enforcement agencies to have adequate training to deal with suspects with mental illness.
House Bill 2702, approved by Gov. Greg Abbott and now dubbed the “Sandra Bland Act, will go into effect September 1.
Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said his department is made up of nearly 500 employees. He said jailers and deputies are already going through the required training to be ready when the law takes effect.
Mental health experts taught county jailers about working with prisoners with mental health issues.
Lucio said, at any given time, they’re about 1,100 to 1,500 inmates at the Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center in Olmito.
He said it’s crucial for jailers to be able to recognize inmates with mental issues for their safety and the inmate’s as well.
Among other things, Lucio said the bill requires better training for law enforcement on de-escalating situations.
“When somebody who has been arrested is here in jail and he starts telling you, “Well, I hear voices’ or ‘he’s talking to me’ or ‘God talked to me or the devil talked to me,’ then you have to realize that there’s something wrong with this individual,” he explained. “It’s not because he was drinking the night before or he took some medication, but because he’s got problems. So, once you understand that, then you know exactly what’s the next step you may need to do.”
Lucio said the law also requires jailers and deputies to have 40 hours of mental health training to be ready to deal with things like PTSD, psychosis and drug abuse.
The sheriff said some employees have already completed the training. He said everyone, including himself, will have gone through the courses come September 1.