Phoenix police is now teaming up with mental health care professionals as the department ushers in a new mental health advisory board. Behavioral experts are training officers on how to approach the mentally ill without setting off a potentially dangerous situation.

Police chief Daniel Garcia says, after reviewing policy, there is much work that needs to be done, ranging from new use-of-force training to learning how to speak the vernacular of mental health care experts. He says whenever possible, mental health experts and crisis teams will be dispatched to mental health care calls involving police. This will supplemented by an increased use of body cams worn by officers. Garcia says about 1,300 officers have already received two hours of mental health training.

The board’s formation comes after a Sergeant fatally shot Michelle Cusseaux in August. She refused to go in for mental health treatment. Cusseaux’s mother, Francis Garrett,(pictured left) appreciates the new effort but says community imput is lacking. “We have lost loved ones, “, says Garrett. “We know what the root of the problems are”.

Chief Garcia has invited her to the upcoming board meeting.

–Barbara Villa