Concord, California – The Concord Police Department is highlighting the success of its Crisis Negotiation Team on World Mental Health Day.
The team is expanding, and there are currently 15 people divided across the department.
When SWAT is activated, the CNT is activated as well. Each member of the team has received extensive training in order to understand how to reach a peaceful ending and provide the assistance that individuals in mental health crisis require.
“We go into it realizing that we are probably dealing with this person on the worst day of their life,” said Corporal Shasta Vanetti, a member of Concord PD’s CNT for the last two years.
She said when she speaks to people out on patrol who might be experiencing a mental health crisis, she has a bit of a different mindset.
“No matter what my title is, it doesn’t matter. No matter what I’m wearing, it doesn’t matter. It’s just Shasta talking to them,'” she said. “I want to know what they care about, and I really want to know why they’re in that situation. Why have they barricaded themselves? Why are they on top of this bridge?”
Vanetti was part of the crew called to Martinez last Saturday to help a man who was threating to jump from a set of train tracks. After two hours of negotiating with him, the man accepted help.
Vanetti said this is just one example of how helpful the CNT’s training really is.
“I see it on patrol every day when I’m talking to the person and they’re initially very irate and we’re able to have a conversation and bring the situation back down and find out how I can best help,” said Vanetti.
Like Concord, many police departments are trying to make the shift when dealing with someone who is having a mental health crisis.
Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong recently spoke about OPD’s negotiation team’s success convincing a man to surrender peacefully after he shot an officer.
“We are negotiating through these things, but also bringing in different people to be a part of that negotiation, not understanding what they may face,” said Armstrong during a press conference last month. “We want to be prepared for whatever situation we encounter in terms of the person’s mental stability.”
Vanetti said in most situations, people just want to feel like somebody cares about them. Understanding that is a lesson everyone can learn from.
“Whenever somebody tells me that they feel like they aren’t cared about and I tell them that I care about them, I’m being completely 100% honest,” said Vanetti.