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LISTEN: Following Shooting, Ada County Sheriff Talks About Mental Health Crisis Response

Emilie Ritter Saunders
Boise State Public Radio
Stephen Bartlett (in the khaki shirt) participated in a Boise State Public Radio panel on community/police relations in February 2015.

Two Ada County sheriff’s deputies last week shot and killed 53-year-old Lee Easter in his southwest Boise home. Easter was, at the time, reportedly suicidal. The deputies say they tried to talk to him but that Easter pointed a handgun at them and they fired. That shooting is being investigated by the Ada County Critical Incident Task Force and being led by the Boise Police Department.

Scenarios like this have become common. Police are on the front lines of what some consider a national, mental-health crisis. This week we talked with Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett about how his officers are trained to deal with a mental health crisis.

The Ada County Sheriff is in charge of one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state. Bartlett says officers get a little mental health training in the academy and then some more when they're hired by the county. And some of his deputies have undergone an extensive training known as Crisis Intervention Teams or CIT.

One of the highlights of that interview is that Bartlett says his department will try a new way of responding to mental health crisis calls. Bartlett says some cities are using teams called 'mental health crisis squads'.

“Plain clothes officers that do nothing but travel around their city and respond to mental health calls for service,” Bartlett says.

He says Ada County this summer will try the idea, beginning with two deputies.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

Copyright 2016 Boise State Public Radio