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Community Advocacy Organization

Detroit Police Department plans to expand mental health operations

Detroit Police Chief James White, image via John T. Greilick, The Detroit Press

Detroit, Mich. — According to the Detroit police, they are now responding to more calls involving mentally ill residents than ever before. On Wednesday, Chief James White revealed a complete reform of department's Crisis Intervention Team, nodding to innovative tools that he said would give officers more options when dealing with citizens in crisis.

Some of the mentioned changes include centralizing the Crisis Intervention Team operations and equipping CIT officers with less-than-lethal weapons. One possibiity discussed was Bolawraps, which are hand-held devices that discharge a cord that coils around subjects' arms or legs to restrain them in violent spats or potentially hostile outbursts.

During a news conference at Huntington Place, White said he plans to introduce two centralized Co-Response Units. One for both the city's east and west sides. These units would be curated with full-time officers dedicated to mental health runs.

He also discussed a "throw camera" that can be lobbed into places during barricaded-gunman scenarios, police drones and a "virtual reality helmet" for training . Prior to the news briefing, there was a public live demonstration of the tools.

The tools still have to go through the procurement process.

White said "Policies (overseeing the tools' use) would have to be approved by the Board of Police Commissioners, while the City Council would have to approve the purchases,"

White assured. "But we have dollars for it."

While the new devices give officers more options, "this is no guarantee that the outcomes, which are already unpredictable, are going to end peacefully," the chief said. "This just gives officers more tools to that end."

During Wednesday's briefing, White also revealed new uniforms and vehicles CIT officers will utilize. The new light-gray tops and khaki pants featured are designed to appear less intimidating to people in crises than traditional police attire. The new vehicles will feature unique green lights in addition to the traditional red-and-blue flashing lights atop most squad cars.

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