Cornyn, Whitehouse Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Bill Heads to President’s Desk
Legislation Would Support Training for Law Enforcement Officers to Safely and Effectively Respond to People in Crisis
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) 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 and is now headed to the President’s desk for signature:
“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 Sen. 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.”
“I’m pleased to see the House pass the Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act and send it the President’s desk,” said Sen. 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.”
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 bill, which would empower police and the mental health professionals working with them to link individuals to mental and behavioral health services in their community. Companion legislation in the House was led by Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA-37), Darrell Issa (R-CA-50), David Trone (D-MD-6), and Steve Chabot (R-OH-1).
Police are often on the front lines of behavioral and mental health and substance use crises. Studies estimate that as many as six to ten percent of law enforcement encounters involve persons experiencing serious mental illnesses. Currently, people in crisis account for between 25-50 percent of fatalities during law enforcement encounters. Navigating an encounter with a person experiencing serious mental illness or substance use is challenging, but there are solutions that can protect the safety of people in crisis, law enforcement officers, and bystanders. Training in de-escalation tactics and other techniques can reduce excessive force complaints and fatalities during law enforcement encounters, and crisis intervention teams can improve outcomes. Law enforcement agencies across the country are seeking resources to conduct trainings in these techniques and practices.
The bill would build off the existing Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program to create a dedicated stream of funding to local and state law enforcement agencies to train their officers and the mental health professionals who work with them in 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 bipartisan Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act would:
- 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;
- Authorize $124 million in grant funding over four years for training, including scenario-based exercises and evaluative assessments;
- 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.
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.