Columbia PD: We need more officers to handle mental health situations

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by Russell Kinsaul / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on January 16, 2013 at 12:08 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 16 at 9:41 AM

COLUMBIA, Il (KMOV.com) -- Metro East police department needs more officers to handle mental health situations

Police departments are getting a growing number of calls to handle situations involving people with mental illness.

Those situations can vary from someone who is suicidal to someone who has become violent. The workload has grown so much that the Columbia, Illinois Police Department says it needs to add more officers.

The small police department in a town of 10,000 residents responded to 63 mental health crisis situations in 2012.

All of the department’s officers are trained to handle mental health cases.

Department policy requires two officers to respond to a mental health crisis call but the department only has two officers on each shift, which leaves the rest of the city without an officer on to duty respond to other emergencies.

“If there are cars tied up on a traffic crash when a mental health call comes out, we will call off duty officers in from home,” said Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards. “We assign a take home car for each officer in order to do that.”

At Monday’s city council meeting, Ewdards asked the city to hire three more officers. Each would cost the city about $75,000 in pay and benefits per year.

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