December 15, 2022

Whitehouse’s Bipartisan Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act Heads to President’s Desk

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statements after the Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act, which would equip law enforcement officers with the tools to effectively and safely respond to people in crisis, passed the House last night on a bipartisan 264-162 vote.  The bill is now headed to the President’s desk for signature.

“I’m pleased to see the House pass the Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act and send it the President’s desk,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Every day police officers are called on to respond to complex situations involving mental and behavioral health issues.  I’m grateful for Senator Cornyn’s partnership on this bipartisan piece of legislation that will equip officers with the training and resources to handle those issues safely and appropriately.  Many Rhode Island police departments have shown real leadership in this area and I’m grateful to them for their advice and support.”

“By giving law enforcement the tools they need to help those experiencing mental health emergencies and other crises, we can help make communities safer by building a stronger bridge between the criminal justice system and mental health care,” said Senator Cornyn.  “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the House for passing this critical legislation, and I urge the President to promptly sign this bill into law.”

Underfunded and overworked mental and behavioral health systems often leave police to intervene with people who urgently need mental or behavioral health care.  But many police departments lack resources to train officers on how to deal with such situations, leading to encounters that are dangerous for everyone involved.

The bill would require the Department of Justice to work with experts to develop comprehensive trainings on de-escalation tactics, alternatives to use of force, safely responding to mental, behavioral, and suicidal crises, successfully participating on a crisis intervention team, and making referrals to community-based mental and behavioral health services and support and other social programs.  The bill would also build off the existing Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program to create a dedicated stream of funding for local and state law enforcement agencies to access these trainings and train their officers and the mental health professionals who work with them.

“A call to 911 is the often the first step toward treatment and recovery.  Law enforcement and first responders deserve the tools and training they need to safely and effectively de-escalate people experiencing a crisis,” said Liz Gledhill, Rhode Island statewide Crisis Intervention Team coordinator and CIT-RI project manager at Thundermist Health Center.  “Without Senator Whitehouse’s unwavering leadership, we would not have a statewide Crisis Intervention Team program in Rhode Island.  As a result of this important work, thousands of Rhode Islanders who’ve encountered police during a crisis have avoided arrest.  People living with mental illness deserve access to high quality mental health care and with this legislation law enforcement can play a critical role in making sure these folks have access to treatment.”

“Now more than ever, there is a demand for mental health treatment, crisis mitigation, and substance abuse recovery services in every community throughout the country.  We must be proactive in offering a wide variety of social services rather than respond after a tragic event or wait until a situation escalates that threatens the health and well-being of those who are affected.  Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect and serve and are often the first to interact with individuals who face mental illness, homelessness, and opioid addiction, among many societal challenges.  Increased awareness and training will allow Officers to better respond to and assist those who need our help.  We recognize that to be effective, we must leverage our partnerships with local mental health and social service providers and address challenges through collaboration and teamwork.  In the short time the Cranston Police Department Crisis Intervention Team has been in place, we have achieved great success thanks to our community outreach efforts with Gateway Mental Health and the Cranston Comprehensive Community Action Program.  We have connected many people with vital services while reducing the need for Officers to respond to repetitive calls at the same addresses,” said Colonel Michael J. Winquist, Chief of Police for the Cranston Police Department.  “I thank Senator Whitehouse for being at the forefront of recognizing the need for increased law enforcement training in responding to mental health issues, including forming Crisis Intervention Teams and creating partnerships between law enforcement and behavioral health experts.  The passage of this bipartisan legislation will have a tremendous impact on public safety.”

The bipartisan Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act would:

  1. Require the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to develop curricula in the training topics, or identify existing curricula, in consultation with law enforcement, mental health organizations, family advocacy organizations, and civil rights and civil liberties groups, among other stakeholders;
  2. Authorize $124 million in grant funding over four years for training, including scenario-based exercises and evaluative assessments;
  3. And require the National Institute of Justice and the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the implementation of the program and the effect of the training, to ensure that the curricula have a tangible impact on law enforcement encounters with people in crisis, and identify possible changes that would further improve outcomes.

In July, Whitehouse and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) announced $1.2 million in federal funding to support crisis intervention team (CIT) training for police departments across Rhode Island.  As part of the expansion, Thundermist Health Center, in partnership with the Rhode Island Police Chief’s Association, will equip local police departments with the tools to divert people in crisis away from the justice system and connect them with the mental and behavioral health resources they need.  Thundermist will also help create workflows for 911 and local dispatchers to ensure CIT-trained officers and, if appropriate, an embedded police clinician are sent to calls on an as-needed basis.

Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jon Tester (D-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) cosponsored the Senate bill.  Companion legislation in the House was led by Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), David Trone (D-MD), and Steve Chabot (R-OH).

The bill is endorsed by the Prison Fellowship, Fraternal Order of Police, Major County Sheriffs of America, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Criminal Justice Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs’ Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association NYPD, Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, National Association of Counties, American Psychological Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, National Association of Evangelicals, American Conservative Union, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Right on Crime, Catholic Charities USA, 2020 Mom, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists, American Association on Health and Disability, American Association of Suicidology, American Counseling Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Group Psychotherapy Association, American Psychiatric Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare (AABH), Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Lakeshore Foundation, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, NAADAC the Association for Addiction Professionals, The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health, National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Association for Rural Mental Health, National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), National Council for Mental Wellbeing, National Eating Disorders Association, National Federation of Families, National Network of Depression Centers, National Register of Health Service Psychologists, RI International, Sandy Hook Promise, Catholic Prison Ministry Coalition, Center for Public Justice, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, Niskanen Center, Salvation Army, and Borderplex Alliance.

Meaghan McCabe, (401) 453-5294

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921