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Crisis unit not deployed to Boyd standoff

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

A specialized unit of the Albuquerque Police Department trained to defuse dangerous situations with mentally ill people was not deployed to the Sandia foothills to negotiate with James Boyd on the day he was fatally shot, advocates said.

Nor was the city’s psychiatrist consulted. Instead, APD deployed officers who deal with repeat offenders.

Leaders of APD’s Crisis Intervention Team, who met with a community group last week, acknowledged that the team played no role in the five-hour standoff with Boyd on March 16, said Berri Roberts, executive director of the Bernalillo County Forensic Intervention Consortium.

“They were not called, and they were not out there,” Robert said of the four CIT detectives, who are extensively trained and have daily experience working with mentally ill people.

APD declined to comment Wednesday, citing a pending FBI investigation into the Boyd shooting.

APD Chief Gorden Eden said on the night of the shooting that officers requested a Crisis Intervention Team and a supervisor. Police told the Journal and other news organizations following Boyd’s death that a CIT officer had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Boyd, who had a history of arrests and hospitalizations for mental illness.

Roberts said two ranking officers who oversee the Crisis Intervention Team made the comments – about the team not being present during the standoff – last week during a meeting with members of Forensic Intervention Consortium, a broad coalition of groups with an interest in the issue of mental illness.

CIT detectives would have been the most appropriate personnel to negotiate with Boyd, Roberts said.

“They have extensive training and experience with people living with mental illness, especially people on the street,” he said.

Roberts said police, when talking to the media following the shooting, did not make a distinction between full-time CIT detectives and field officers who have completed 40 hours of CIT training, qualifying them to respond to calls in which mental illness is a factor.

The officer who responded to the standoff with Boyd was a field officer who had completed the CIT certification program, Roberts said.

About 27 percent of Albuquerque officers have CIT certification.

Albuquerque also is one of a few U.S. cities that employs a full-time psychiatrist, who consults with CIT and specializes in issues of mental health and homelessness, Roberts said. The psychiatrist, Dr. Nils Rosenbaum, also was not consulted the day of Boyd’s death, she said. Rosenbaum declined to comment this week.

Two CIT detectives also are trained as crisis negotiators who serve as lead negotiators on the city’s Crisis Negotiations Team, Roberts said.

APD’s standard operating procedures call for the deployment of the Crisis Negotiations Team “to resolve certain critical incidents” in conjunction with APD’s SWAT team.

Those critical incidents include “high-risk suicidal subjects” and barricaded subjects, according to procedures posted on APD’s website.

The procedures also define the duties of CIT detectives as assisting all police divisions “on all requests involving issues concerning individuals living with mental illness.”

On March 16, APD deployed officers with the city’s repeat offender program rather than a SWAT team to respond to the standoff with Boyd, police have said.

City budget cutting has resulted in a reduction in the number of Crisis Intervention Team detectives in recent years, Roberts said. APD today has four CID detectives, down from seven as recently as two years ago, she said.

Breanna Anderson, a spokeswoman for Mayor Richard Berry, said APD could not respond to questions about CIT involvement in Boyd’s killing because the FBI has asked police not to comment publicly about the case.

Anderson provided a March 31 letter from Carol Lee, FBI Special Agent in Charge, to Chief Eden stating that the FBI had opened a full investigation into Boyd’s shooting. Lee told Eden not to comment on the case “to maintain the integrity of the investigation and to avoid tainting witness testimony,” the letter said.

Berry said at a news conference on Wednesday that the city plans to require 100 hours of CIT training for all APD officers who graduate from the city’s police academy, beginning with the class that graduates in June.

Berry also said he expects the U.S. Department of Justice to push the city to expand police training in de-escalation techniques, particularly during encounters with people with mental illness.

Berry’s proposed budget includes $1 million to pay for the training.

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