Duke Police officer Kelly George spent 20 years in law enforcement in Oregon and Alaska before coming to Duke in 2013, but the job has offered more to him than a change in scenery.
It’s given him a chance to grow professionally.
Along with two other Duke University Police Department officers, George and his colleagues recently completed 40 hours of training as part of the Crisis Intervention Team, a program coordinated by Alliance Behavioral Healthcare and the Durham County National Alliance on Mental Illness that provides local first responders with training in mental illness, substance abuse and developmental disabilities.
Over the course of a week, George and Deonte Kennedy and Randall Jackson received classroom and hands-on training with local experts and practiced a variety of techniques to help diffuse unique situations where extra attention to detail and interpersonal dialogue is necessary.
“You’re a more valuable asset to the department if you’re a well-trained officer,” George said. “We’re learning better ways to communicate, be empathetic and find connections to what may be going on in other people’s lives.”
George noted one of the biggest takeaways from the Crisis Intervention Team training was the time spent learning and collaborating with other agencies. Attendees included officers from the City of Durham, Durham County Sheriff, Durham Technical Community College, North Carolina Central University and Durham’s Fire and Paramedic departments. George said that gaining perspective from other departments provided him with information he could use in a crisis situation to recommend treatments or simply know what resources are available.
“Throughout the week, we started to change the way we thought about people dealing with mental illnesses and how we can help,” George said. “They’re just like you or me, they’re just dealt a different hand.”
Jackson, who has worked with Duke Police for eight years, said the opportunity to take crisis training was “can’t miss.” He spends part of his patrol time around Duke Hospital’s emergency room, so it was beneficial for him to learn more about specific medications, how they might influence behavior and illnesses they’re prescribed for, whether mental or physical.
“You can assess a situation by paying attention to someone’s eye movements, the way they walk and their body movements,” Jackson said. “The way we approach someone with a kind word or handshake can let them know we’re listening and that can sometimes be enough.”