FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth police have strengthened training and are trying to implement new ways to avoid conflicts with people having a mental health crisis.
Chief Neil Noakes updated the city council Tuesday on how the department is implementing recommendations from an expert review panel, that released a critical report last month finding officers were sometimes acting in ways to encourage conflict, and not being held accountable.
General orders in place now require officers to intervene and report inappropriate force. De-escalation is now also part of all use of force classes, rather than a single stand alone class. Supervisors are now required to also go to scenes that could become violent, to make sure officers de-escalate where appropriate.
Noakes pointed out that out of more than 230,000 calls for service this year, less than one-percent involved a use of force. However a force analysis unit created in May is going through them, and has reviewed about half of the more than 1,500 calls so far this year.
The department is also doing more to avoid conflicts with people having a mental health crisis. One program developed with the Fort Worth Fire Department would allow residents to volunteer information about a family member at their home, so first responders would know how to handle a situation if they are ever called to the address.
“So say it is someone who is autistic. That family can let us know what their triggers are. Maybe they don’t like to be touched,” Noakes said.
The Chief said the department is still working on efforts to improve diversity, with single digits increases in Hispanic staff and women the first half of the year, but no percentage increases in Black officers.
Noakes did introduce several staff at the meeting who had recently been promoted or hired, who he said may make the executive staff in the department the most diverse it has ever been.