Actors, mentally ill aid NYC police training meant to calm

In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015 photo, Officer Lamont Edwards talks to actor Nathan Purdee during a Crisis Intervention Training class at the New York Police Department Police Academy, in New York. A new training for New York City police is combining actors, the mentally ill and psychology experts to better prepare officers responding to people in the throes of a mental crisis. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK (AP) — A new training for New York City police is combining actors, the mentally ill and psychology experts to better prepare officers responding to people in the throes of a mental crisis.

Officials say patrol officers are often first on the scene to 911 calls of people acting erratically. But advocates have long complained a hard-charging enforcement approach unnecessarily escalates emotionally charged situations. Sometimes the results are tragic.

To improve how officers handle such calls, officials have instituted their own version of a nationally-recognized model called Crisis Intervention Training.

Nearly 300 officers have already been trained, learning how to detect signs of mental illness, slow things down and empathize with an emotionally disturbed person.

Specially trained actors portray distressed characters and responding officers are evaluated in real time by clinical psychologists.

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