Key parts of Sandra Bland act went into effect mandating officer training

Key parts of Sandra Bland act went into effect mandating officer training (File Photo)

Parts of the Sandra Bland Act, Texas House Bill 2702, went into effect Jan 1.

Sandra Bland committed suicide in jail after being arrested during a traffic stop in 2015. The stop escalated when Bland refused to put out her cigarette. The officer forcible removed her from her vehicle and arrested her.

As a result of this, the Sandra Bland Bill was written and named in her honor.

The law requires county jails to divert people with mental illness toward treatment.

It took effect Sept of last year, but one section in particular went into effect at the start of this year. That section deals with officer training and more documentation with each stop.

"Any time we write a citation or a warning, we keep a record of that," said Cpl. Jeb Hilton, Amarillo Police Department. "It goes into our records and it's passed on to the FBI stats for our yearly numbers."

This means if an officer only gives out a warning, that officer still must collect detailed information.

Hilton says it will not change the way they do things. And with this law, officers will have more mandated training to learn crisis intervention techniques to interact with someone who has a mental health condition.

"We have a lot of training on mental health and how to deal with people going through mental health crisis," said Hilton. "We actually have our crisis intervention team that is trained to deal just with those mental health situation."

We spoke with Greg Hansch, Public Policy Director for National Alliance on Mental Illness Texas, who says the Sandra Bland incident raised concerns about what goes on in many police encounters with citizens dealing with mental illness.

"Police should be equipped with the appropriate skills for safely and effectively intervening when they come across an individual who may be in mental health crisis," said Hansch.

He says not every sign of mental illness will be recognized unless someone is trained on what they look like.

"I think it can save a life. I think it can save multiple lives," said Hansch. "Crisis intervention training is a proven practice."

And this law will divert people with mental health conditions toward treatment, rather than jail time. Hansch says this is a huge reform to the mental health system.

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