Criminal Justice Academy prepares required mental illness training under new law


COLUMBIA, S.C (WACH) -- A new law requires that all South Carolina law enforcement officers learn to spot mental illnesses and how to respond.

"Sometimes people are wrongfully arrested and we're bringing to the forefront what to look for - some of the signs and triggers," Major Florence McCants of Criminal Justice Academy says.

Signs of a mental illness could be that someone isn't speaking or making eye contact. Knowing the difference between a criminal and someone who is mentally ill is vital in the next step.

The course will be added to training all officers need to be re-certified every three years.

"Basically what we want to do is give them a strong foundation to know how to detect and knowing what options they have in dealing with someone with mental illness," McCants says.

Sometimes officers may need to go beyond just enforcing the law.

"They'll have to step outside their role of being a police officer and be a counselor and just listen," says Training Operations Manager John Yarborough.

The additional training will use real-life scenarios that have already happened. It'll all be done through video so officers who have already been working for years can be easily trained.

Right now the Criminal Justice Academy is working together with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to build lesson plans online.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off