HPD teams up with homeless providers to train newest officers on de-escalation

It's all to prevent misunderstandings, which can escalate quickly between police and homeless with mental health issues.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 5:41 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 22, 2022 at 5:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a seminar with the Institute for Human Services, the Honolulu Police Department’s newest class of officers took part in training focused on working with Oahu’s homeless community.

The session is part of HPD’s initiative to enhance its crisis intervention and mental health response training.

“When our police officers understand people better and they have other tools to de-escalate and to just understand somebody when they’re going through something, I think that our community is safer,” said IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell.

The most recent point in time count tallied nearly 4,000 homeless people on Oahu.

HPD says that on any given shift, especially in urban areas, 40-50% of calls can be homeless-related.

“We want to break the revolving door,” said Maj. Mike Lambert, HPD training division.

“I can guarantee you that if we arrest someone for drinking in public and offer no other service, they’ll be drinking in public tomorrow and that’s the reality of it.”

Officers are also working to discern the difference between crime and a personal crisis, in which support services are an option instead of arrest.

“We would have interactions and we’d waste it,” Lambert explained.

“Meaning, that it was either they committed a crime or not and that’s the way it ended. I would say over the last four or five years, we really strengthened our diversion options by working with partners such as IHS to make sure that if it’s not arrest, if it’s nothing, then maybe we can just send them to a service.”

Starting next month, Lambert says HPD recruits will become nationally certified in mental health response and first aid training.

“I do think that we need to be good about matching a particular service with a person’s needs and that’s where assessment comes in,” Mitchell said.

“I think when police officers train to get that kind of assessment skill, that can only be good for our community.”