Ryan LaDuke, an officer with the Duke University Police Department, has been named the Duke Crisis Intervention Training Officer of the Year.
On Oct. 19, LaDuke, who's been with Duke Police since 2008 and works primarily in the health system, received the award for calming potential hazardous situations like a person threatening suicide and a person walking into traffic along Erwin Road.
"Officer LaDuke has generated more crisis intervention reports than any officer," said Michael Linton, captain with Duke Police. "He cares enough to make sure that people with mental illness get much needed help and attention they need from local resources."
To be eligible for the award, LaDuke completed 40 hours of training with local mental health, consumer advocacy and law enforcement agencies. He was then nominated for the award by Linton, who highlighted instances when LaDuke used his training to help others.
The crisis training program and award are coordinated by Durham Center and the Durham County National Alliance on Mental Illness, which presents awards to one participant from each law enforcement agency that takes part in the program. Duke was one of five agencies to present an Officer of the Year award.
LaDuke said he wanted to take the training to learn new policies that could be helpful in emergency situations, like how to best communicate and create an open dialogue with individuals who could harm themselves or others.
"There was one woman who was yelling that she needed psychological help and walking in the street on Erwin Road putting herself in danger," LaDuke said. "So I was able to talk to her and convince her to let me take her to Urban Ministries to get her some food and find someone to help her out."
Officers graduating from the crisis training program learn about areas like suicide risk assessment and intervention, developmental disabilities and special concerns with adolescents. Training comes from presentations, class discussions, role-playing and more.
LaDuke said the crisis training is especially helpful because many of the people he encounters and helps may otherwise be arrested.
"It's often hard to communicate with individuals who have mental disorders, but the training allowed me to learn how to best talk with people and deal with their issue," LaDuke said. "It doesn't have to be an intense situation."
Since 2007, Durham's Crisis Intervention Training program has graduated 251 law enforcement officers from Durham County law enforcement units - including 21 Duke officers. Over the past year, trained officers have responded to about 1,600 mental health 911 calls.