By Dave Lemery | The Center Square
As the spotlight increasingly falls on police behavior and procedures nationwide in the aftermath of several high-profile deaths this year, New Hampshire departments have increasingly sought training in de-escalation techniques.
The problem is, funding for such advanced training is often in short supply, especially for smaller departments.
According to the Concord Monitor, a National Alliance on Mental Illness in New Hampshire training seminar held in Dover in August in such techniques was in such high demand that there was a waiting list for slots.
“It’s an expensive program to put your police department though,” John Scippa, director of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, told the Monitor. “We sat down and did the numbers to get every officer in the state of New Hampshire certified in that and, you’re talking like a million dollars.”
Police officers are often called to respond to situations where someone is having difficulty with mental illness, but they may not have extensive training in how to de-escalate those situations. The New Hampshire State Police told the Monitor that 30 of 65 cases where people were shot and killed by police between 1999 and 2017 involved people with documented mental health issues.
Departments that lack the funding for such training can apply for a variety of grants, as was the case with the Dover seminar. All police officers in the state are required to go through some standard training, for which funding is provided by the state.
“When we get called for help, oftentimes, unfortunately, there is an underlying mental health component that is part of the situation,” he said. “I think that’s been long recognized.”