OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The two officers who pulled the trigger Friday, killing 60-year-old Bennie Edwards, did not have the voluntary crisis intervention training certification that’s used to deal with de-escalation and those suffering from mental illness. Though, the department said they do undergo other mandatory mental health training.
Public information officer Megan Morgan with the Oklahoma City Police Department said 25 percent of the police force is CIT certified. Though, they do undergo other mental health training.
“I think we do need change,” said Carrie Blumert, an Oklahoma County Commissioner.
Blumert spoke out Tuesday after the Friday officer-involved shooting that ended in Edwards’ death.
“They’re part of a system that has trained them to react that way,” Blumert said.
Morgan said of the 628 employed officers, 158 of them have CIT certification. Most of those with it are in patrol.
“We have the best de-escalation policy in the country,” Police Chief Wade Gourley said.
Gourley praised the departments tactics back in June.
“We developed this procedure for de-escalation,” Gourley said. “That’s line by line and the reason we started looking at it was it protects the public and our officers; they’re less likely to get hurt, too.”
However, six months later, Edwards, a black man, was shot and killed near Pennsylvania Avenue and Hefner Road. The narrative of the police report can be read below.
“I think what we see from the initial video is that the officers did everything they could to de-escalate the situation,” Capt. Dan Stewart said. “It’s very unfortunate that it ended the way it did.”
The report states that police tried to use pepper spray and a taser on Edwards, but to no avail. Edwards’s family said he suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The 40-hour, voluntary training course for officers teaches them how to deal with those situations.
“This training gives them tools and skills to feel confident to respond to a situation more appropriately,” Blumert said.
Blumert said she would like to see more done with mental health experts or social workers pairing with officers. However, she said it all boils down to money. Something she said some organizations here don’t have.
“No one has enough funding to be able to respond countywide or to be able to have full-time staff be able to go out with OCPD officers every single day,” she said. “We have to have some tough conversations and see if we can change the way some of these things are done.”
A third officer was on scene Friday but didn’t fire his weapon. That officer also doesn’t have CIT training. The two officers that did shoot are on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation while the district attorney reviews the case to see whether that use of force was justified.
We’re told body camera video of the incident will be released at some point after all that takes place.
Capt. Dan Stewart with the Police Department provided the following statement on the mental health training that Oklahoma City police officers receive:
“All commissioned officers of the Oklahoma City Police Department have received mental health training. This begins in the police academy where our recruits receive 16 hours of mental health classroom training to include an overview of the Crisis Intervention Team and general mental health training. In addition to the 16 hours, they receive many more hours in practical exercises and scenario-based training. Additionally, all commissioned officers are required to complete a minimum of two hours of mental health training annually. Not only do our officers receive the required mental health training but we also incorporate mental health training into any scenario-based training officers receive.
In addition to mandatory mental health training, the Oklahoma City Police Department has a unit called the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). CIT Officers receive specialized training to better equip them when dealing with citizens experiencing a mental health crisis. The program is voluntary and allows officers to expand their mental health training. When available, members of our CIT program can respond to calls related to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
The CIT program originated in Memphis, Tennessee and developed into a national program. More information on the CIT program can be found at www.citinternational.org. The Oklahoma City Police Department has voluntarily participated in the CIT program since 2002. Our department follows the recommendation that 20-25% of an agency’s patrol division be CIT trained. With 628 officers assigned to the four patrol divisions and 158 allotted CIT positions we currently meet the 25% recommendation.”CAPT. DAN STEWART