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Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 12:23am
LAS CRUCES, NM - Police officers have dangerous jobs but when dealing with someone with mental health issues, the job becomes even more dangerous.
Las Cruces Police Department has crisis intervention and hostage negotiation teams that spend hundreds of hours training every year to make sure they can properly deal with any type of situation.
"We do de-escalation skills and crisis management type skills where they would use those to try and calm the person or make them feel more comfortable to talk to a counselor or possibly go to the hospital," said Robert McCord, a six-year veteran of the department.
McCord is a member of the crisis intervention and hostage negotiation teams. About a third of the officers on the force are trained in crisis intervention. They spend about 120 hours every year taking courses and discussing any incidents that might have occurred in the last month.
"The officer can recognize he's dealing with somebody that has mental health issues and how to properly address it from an officer's safety standpoint," McCord said.
McCord said most people that barricade themselves have some sort of mental health issue. That's when the training become essential in making sure the situation ends peacefully.
"I consider it a great success to be able to talk somebody out as opposed to have to go in with the swat team and have them physically removed," McCord said.
On Saturday, that training was put to use when Noe Jimenez, 37, was inside a central Las Cruces treatment center with a gun and admitted to hostage negotiators to smoking meth and wanting to be killed by police, according to investigators.
McCord said a person who's suicidal is the most dangerous state of mind anybody can be in.
"If he's willing to commit suicide, he's likely to take someone else with him and I think that's the most danger a police officer faces," McCord said.
Jimenez was eventually arrested after the swat team fired two beanbag rounds knocking him to the ground. Police said Jimenez had left a loaded revolver on a counter before the swat team went in the building.
McCord credits the training for making sure everybody makes it out alive.
"It's the difference between life and death," McCord said. "Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt and police officers don't want to hurt anybody either, they have to live with that the rest of their lives."
McCord said shooting a suspect is always a last resort and only if officer's lives or anybody else's lives are in danger.