URI police officer becomes certified trainer for mental illness crises

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KINGSTON, R.I. – June 14, 2010 – A University of Rhode Island law enforcement officer just added another certification to his long list of qualifications that helps him better serve the community.

URI Police Lt. Michael Donohue was one of 13 officers across the state who completed the Certification of Crisis Responder Trainers program.

The certification ceremony took place at the Kent County Courthouse on Monday, June 7, which was only the second ceremony to recognize certified officers in Rhode Island. The guest speaker at the ceremony was Col. Joseph P. Moran III, president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association. Other speakers included The Honorable Jeanne E. LaFazia, Chief Judge of the Rhode Island District Court.

The Rhode Island Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals (DMHRH), along with the certification board, supports this ongoing effort to develop and enhance the competence of officers in their response to incidents involving persons with mental illnesses. Donohue is now qualified to train other law enforcement officials to deal with incidents involving mental health.

Allowing officers time away from shifts to participate in training is often difficult, especially for smaller departments. URI Police Maj. Stephen Baker said that he believes Donohue’s training is especially valuable because further training can now be scheduled by members of the department at times that are most convenient for them.

“There’s been an increase in interaction with people who have mental health issues, and it’s important to be able to recognize they’re in a crisis,” said Baker. “Lt. Donohue has already been using what he learned since completing the training.”

Donohue spent three days mastering the program at the Coventry Police Department training facility. “There were different role playing exercises and training, especially for recognizing schizophrenia. The important part is realizing a person may not be a criminal, they might be in a crisis, and an arrest is the last resort you want to take,” Donohue said.

“He recently developed a policy that provides guidelines on how to handle different situations. The policy lists specific procedures, like not making sudden movements or even eye contact for some, so that the officers can all respond in the best way possible,” said Baker.

URI officers have already begun implementing the guidelines from this policy and Donohue will continue to train colleagues in hopes that the entire department will eventually be certified.

Pictured above

URI Police Lt. Michael Donohue

PROUD MOMENT: URI Police Lt. Michael Donohue, center, displays his certificate after being honored for completing the Crisis Responder Trainers program. With Donohue from left are Craig Stenning, director of the state Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals; URI Police Maj. Stephen Baker; Col. Joseph P. Moran III, president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association; and the Honorable Jeanne E. LaFazia, chief judge of the Rhode Island District Court. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.