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Deputies from LA County will receive training at the new center to help them defuse situations involving mentally ill suspects


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    When law enforcement responds to calls involving a mentally distressed individual, responses quickly can escalate into an over use of force or worse, an officer-involved shooting.

    To prevent these kinds of tragedies that often end in death, severe injuries or later on, lawsuits that bleed large payouts from an agency’s budget, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has inhabited a new facility that provides one-stop training programs that will sharpen the skills of deputies and other law enforcement when responding to these kinds of field calls.

    • LA County Sheriff Robert Luna and Industry Mayor Cory Moss...

      LA County Sheriff Robert Luna and Industry Mayor Cory Moss unveil the plaque on the new Mental Evaluation Team (MET) training facility next to the Industry Sheriff’s Station on Thursday August 17, 2023. The facility is equipped with three classrooms and interactive simulators to provide mental health training to members of LASD and members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

    • Rep. Grace Napolitano, left, with Industry Mayor Cory Moss as...

      Rep. Grace Napolitano, left, with Industry Mayor Cory Moss as she speaks about the importance of the new Mental Evaluation Team (MET) training facility next to the Industry Sheriff’s Station on Thursday August 17, 2023. The facility is equipped with three classrooms and interactive simulators to provide mental health training to members of LASD and members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

    • LA County Sheriff Department Sgt. Thomas Bryant, left, and Capt....

      LA County Sheriff Department Sgt. Thomas Bryant, left, and Capt. Geoffrey Deedrick show the new Mental Evaluation Team (MET) training facility next to the Industry Sheriff’s Station on Thursday August 17, 2023. The facility is equipped with three classrooms and interactive simulators to provide mental health training to members of LASD and members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

    • LA County Sheriff Robert Luna speaks about the new Mental...

      LA County Sheriff Robert Luna speaks about the new Mental Evaluation Team (MET) training facility next to the Industry Sheriff’s Station on Thursday August 17, 2023. The facility is equipped with three classrooms and interactive simulators to provide mental health training to members of LASD and members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

    • LA County Sheriff Department Sgt. Thomas Bryant shows a simulator...

      LA County Sheriff Department Sgt. Thomas Bryant shows a simulator room at the new Mental Evaluation Team (MET) training facility next to the Industry Sheriff’s Station on Thursday August 17, 2023. The facility is equipped with three classrooms and interactive simulators to provide mental health training to members of LASD and members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

    • LA County Sheriff Department Sgt. Thomas Bryant, right, and Capt....

      LA County Sheriff Department Sgt. Thomas Bryant, right, and Capt. Geoffrey Deedrick show the new Mental Evaluation Team (MET) training facility next to the Industry Sheriff’s Station on Thursday August 17, 2023. The facility is equipped with three classrooms and interactive simulators to provide mental health training to members of LASD and members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

    A first of its kind LASD Mental Evaluation Team (MET) Regional Training Facility was unveiled on a sunny Thursday, Aug. 17, by Sheriff Robert Luna and officials from the City of Industry.

    Located adjacent to the Industry Sheriff’s Station in City of Industry, the 5,000-square-foot facility features three classrooms and interactive simulators that will provide mental health awareness and crisis intervention training to 18,000 sworn deputies and professional staff, as well as local police departments and members of state and federal law enforcement agencies.

    “This is transformational,” said Capt. Geoffrey Deedrick, who oversees the Sheriff’s Department’s MET program. “This will be a paradigm change in Los Angeles County.”

    For the last three years, sheriff deputies and other law enforcement have received around 86 trainings centered on recognizing the characteristics of someone with autism and symptoms of various mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia. These took place at the Industry Hills Expo Center where large rooms enabled attendees to socially distance during the pandemic.

    The purpose behind these training sessions was to help law enforcement on the scene with a distressed individual, who may have a weapon and is acting erratically, to deescalate the situation. Those completing the classes received certification.

    But for the last several years, trainings were scattered among various sheriff stations as well, and were few and far between.

    Supporters emphasized that the new MET facility will bring together in one place training programs that can prevent tragic outcomes when armed deputies or police officers confront someone who is mentally ill or unable to respond due to symptoms of severe autism.

    “The opening of a mental health training facility helps raise a more compassionate approach to public safety,” said Luna, who kicked off the facility’s dedication on Thursday.

    The city is providing the land lease-free. It paid $3.4 million to have the facility built, said Sam Pedroza, City of Industry spokesperson. Deedrick said the Sheriff’s Department is already getting bookings for training, with interest  from outside the United States.

    Building the center took more than three years and was a labor of love spurred on by Industry Mayor Cory Moss, who has a son and two grandchildren on the autism spectrum.

    “It will give deputies tools to better understand autism spectrum disorder. It gives them the ability to better find resolutions in these crisis situations,” said Moss, who spoke at the dedication with emotion in her voice. “With this center, the sheriff deputies will be the most knowledgeable deputies on mental health.”

    For example, when deputies or police officers respond to a call involving a person with autism, that person may not be able to give their name or explain their actions. This can be misconstrued by first responders as the suspect being evasive or uncooperative.

    “About 45% of individuals with autism are nonverbal. They can’t tell you their name or where they live. So they are very prone to be misunderstood,” explained Kate Movius, founder of the nonprofit Autism Interaction Solutions.

    She’s conducted trainings role-playing a nonverbal person on the autism spectrum. The emphasis is on deescalating a tense situation, she said. Also, wandering off affects 50% of those with autism, she said.

    “The classes will provide them with crisis intervention strategies, reducing the likelihood of any conflict or harm to community members, their families and our own employees,” Luna said.

    Gilbert Valenzuela, 21, who has an autism disorder, has been working as a MET trainer for six years. “We all have different feelings but we have a hard time regulating them and calming ourselves down. That is why we have a hard time communicating to officers,” he told those at the dedication ceremony.

    Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-La Puente, spoke about the difficulties in getting Congress to fund more mental health programs, something she vowed to work on.

    “Sheriff, I want to talk to you about putting in funds to expand the program,” she said, gesturing to Luna who was sitting in the audience. Later she joined Luna cutting the ribbon and revealing an informational plaque on the outside of the building.

    Sources


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