Riverside Police Department talks mental health at community forum

Posted: May 13, 2015 | Written by Aja Sanders
Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz opens, "Policing and Mental Health Forum" held May 7 at California Baptist University.

Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz opens, “Policing and Mental Health Forum” held May 7 at California Baptist University.

The Riverside Police Department and the Riverside County Department of Mental Health collaborated on May 7 at California Baptist University for a panel discussion about policing and mental health.

The panel was comprised of both members of law enforcement and trained experts in treating those with diagnosed mental illnesses.

The department of mental health offers training classes for current and incoming officers through the Crisis Intervention Team. New officers are offered training during their time in the police academy and are offered the same classes every two years after. Returning officers are offered the same training every two years as well.

Tiffany Ross, who is the primary trainer and coordinator for the team, said that although they offer a total of 12 hours of classroom training for officers, it takes a community to proactively handle a crisis that deals with someone who is diagnosed with a mental illness.

“It is not just the responsibility of law enforcement,” Ross said. “We’re all here to provide a service.”

Ross shared success stories where officers texted her about experiences they had when they needed to utilize the tools that they learned during training.

Maria and Rick Algarin, who were also panelists shared their personal experiences with law enforcement and their son who is challenged with a mental illness. They said there is more support today than there ever has been.

According to Lieutenant Dan Hoxmeier, RPD, Field Operations Division, citizens of Riverside County who make more than $1 million a year are charged a special tax that goes toward the department of mental health.

Yolanda Venegas, a community attendee said that she was impressed with the outcome of the forum.

“I am really proud of our police officers,” Venegas said. “I just wonder, how can we get more of our community to come out and support meetings like this?” Vanegas said.

Venegas also said that she was  to see the collaboration between the police department and the department of mental health.

Elizabeth Ayala, who was also a community attendee, said that the forum was “informative.” She also wanted to know if the department kept a record of the demographics of those that they receive 911 calls from.

Police Chief Sergio Diaz was in attendance. Although he did not participate in the panel, he offered his support to the event by sitting in the front row.

Oliver M. Thompson and Jennifer Vaughn Blakely, who were panelists for the Lessons from Ferguson community forum held on April 9, sat in the audience as well.