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Police Trainings in Crisis De-escalation and Suicide Prevention

San Francisco Suicide Prevention’s outreach department now trains members of the San Francisco Police Department in suicide crisis intervention, de-escalation, and response.

The trainings are designed to help officers understand the dynamics of suicide, how it manifests both internally and externally with individuals in distress, how to assess for immediate risk of harm, and how to respond compassionately. We focus on the pain leading to suicide, different ways that people say they are suicidal, how to assess for degree of suicidal risk, and how to make a safety plan with specific recommendations.

Who We Train:

The SFPD is focused on getting every officer who may engage directly with civilians trained in crisis intervention. Primarily, San Francisco Suicide Prevention has trained classes of 30-45 new recruits, but we have also taught higher-ranking personnel as well as tactical officers, such as snipers and SWAT teams.

Goals:

  1. Teaching officers how to distinguish between a high-risk suicidal crisis and a less acute suicidal desire through use of suicide and crisis assessment skills.
  2. Encouraging police officers to use de-escalating language when talking to people who are suicidal and to discourage potential conflict by helping them understand and communicate with people who are suicidal.

Impact we have had:

Police Officers in San Francisco have utilized the training in a number of high and low risk situations. Perhaps the greatest indication of the program’s impact came on July 7, 2016, at Seventh and Market Streets, where a gun-waving, suicidal, substance-using individual begged police officers to shoot him. Instead, they closed traffic in all directions and negotiated with him for over three hours, eventually taking him into the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. The Chief of Police told a reporter, “Time is our friend” – a direct quote from the suicide class curriculum.

Contact:

Eve R. Meyer, Executive Director

Email: evem@sfsuicide.org

Phone: (415) 984-1900 Ext. 101