East Carbon officials addressed a two pronged issue this week as they commended their police department for pursuing mental health training and voted to increase officer pay.
During Tuesday's city council session, members voted to raise police pay by 50 cents-per-hour due to a merit citation received by several members of the local department. The citation involved officer training at the Crisis Intervention Team Academy which used both classroom and interactive techniques to increase officer readiness when faced situations involving the mentally ill.
"This training will be incredibly valuable to us," said East Carbon Police Sgt. Phillip Holt, who approached the council concerning a merit raise during Tuesday's meeting. "We are called out at least twice per week to situations where mental health issues arise."
Police dealings with the mentally ill were brought to the forefront in 2009, when a Hurricane police officer deployed his taser on 32-year-old Brain Layton Cardall as he experienced a bi-polar episode. The episode which led to Cardall's death brought about an ongoing federal court case concerning the Hurricane Police and a call from Utah Governor Gary Herbert to increase police understanding concerning mental illness. During a May 2011 address at the state capitol, Herbert signed a resolution that encouraged all Utah police departments to participate in CIT Academy Training.
According to Holt, the recent training included 40 hours of physician, psychologist, licensed social worker and police instruction. The officers were taught techniques which would increase their awareness of mental health issues and instructed on effective strategies to utilize when encountering mental health consumers. The training further broadened the officer's understanding of legal issues associated with the mentally ill and provided safe intervention and resolution techniques.
"The majority of the time, law enforcement officers are the first individuals to respond when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis," explained Holt. "It is imperative that as many officers as possible receive the training needed to de-escalate these situations, for that reason we saw this training as a must."
All over the state officers were encouraged to take part in the training, as developing a cadre of officers equipped with the skills needed to help someone through a crisis has become a legislative mandate.
"We are proud of the participation shown by our department," said Holt. "Most squads only have a quarter of their officers trained and with this most recent class we now have 75 percent of our officers proficient in CIT certification."
In addition to Sgt. Holt, Officers Shawn Sackett and Kelsey Shumway also completed the training, which given the proposed pay increase, would cost the city $5,670 in annual raises for the department.
"For several years, we have been looking for a way to increase the pay within our local department," said East Carbon Council member David Avery. "During that time we have agreed that merit increases would be the best way to begin leveling our pay structure with what is seen in the rest of the county. Therefore I am inclined to support this increase."
Avery's thoughts were echoed by council member's Andy Urbanik and Darrel Valdez, who sat in as Mayor Pro-Tem during the session.
"I have participated in 40 hour training sessions such as this one and they require a lot of work and determination," explained Valdez. "This type of training is valuable for the department and should be rewarded."
Following the Holt's presentation, the council voted unanimously to accept the department's request for a pay increase.