School Resource Officers hold first training on juvenile mental health and threat assessment
Every once in a while you’ll hear about a student making a threat toward a school. Police said it’s sometimes a misguided joke, but often comes from a child struggling emotionally.
But it’s school resource officers and investigators that are tasked with figuring out if it’s a joke, a legitimate threat or a cry for help.
A new police training is giving school resource officers the tools they need to understand the emotions behind this behavior.
It's called BETA training– or behavioral threat assessment.
"It helps distinguish between behavioral health issues, mental illness and dangerousness which are two very different things,” Joe Wright, Director of Security for Lincoln Public Schools said.
The training, which included Region V staff, LPS officials and all school resource officers will help educators identify and respond to kids dealing with a mental health problem.
LPD's new threat assessment investigator, Nate Hill, used to be a school resource officer.
"It makes a huge difference in how SRO's investigate mental health issues and threat cases from our side of things,” Hill said. “We usually look at, when we investigate criminal cases, on making an arrest, but for behavioral health and threat assessment cases it's more on getting that person help."
Part of the training goes beyond school walls, Hill said.
"We're going to learn the tools today to help them and not only that but help their parents when they get back home, to make the phone calls and lead them in the right direction to all of the mental health services we have, because there's a lot,” Hill said.
Because they said they don't want to criminalize a behavior that may just be a cry for help.
“Putting somebody in jail isn’t going to fix them or the problem, it’s the resources we’re going to learn today to get them help that they need,” Hill said.
The awareness will also help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, Kristin Nelson, director of emergency services for Region V said.
“Mental health is a brain disease,” Nelson said. “It’s not just something people choose to do, actually quite the opposite, people don’t choose to have a mental disorder or diagnosis.”
Lincoln Police Captain Mike Woolman said LPD has been on the forefront of mental health training for ten years, and it’s a natural next step to train school resource officers on juvenile mental health specifically.
This is one of many specialized trainings for school resources officers. The next ones will be with The Child Advocacy Center and active shooter training.