Denver police officers recognized for helping in mental health crises

Denver police officers respond to a wide range of calls every day. Often, it’s a…

Denver police officers respond to a wide range of calls every day. Often, it’s a call for a mental health crisis.

“Policing is so much more than enforcing laws,” said Sgt. Mike Vogler with the Denver Police Department’s Training Bureau. “It is about helping people who need assistance because they’re not able to handle whatever the situation is on their own.”

While the city has added programs to support people experiencing a mental health crisis to limit police interaction – such as the STAR program – officers still encounter people struggling. That’s a big reason why DPD requires every one of its officers to take 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training.

“Not only for an overview of mental illnesses, but how and why people will come into a state of being in crisis,” explained Vogler. “That includes issues of mental health that aren’t necessarily criminal, and we need to be able to respond appropriately.”

On Wednesday, more than a dozen officers and first-responder therapists were recognized for their exceptional responses to such calls, often going above and beyond to support those in need.

“I’m greatly appreciative of your knowledge and experience, your co-advocacy, and your dedication to transformative intervention which really makes a huge difference in people’s lives,” Vincent Atchity, Executive Director of Mental Health Colorado, said at the luncheon.

Among those recognized was Corporal Ernest Quintana. He was the first on the scene of a man preparing to jump off of a roof, and Quintana managed to save that man’s life by taking time to listen.

“We sat down and we were able to talk with him for well over 40 minutes and able to get him to come down,” said Quintana.

Quintana said while the award and recognition are appreciated, there’s still much left to learn and do as a community to support those struggling with mental illnesses.

“There has to be more follow-up and long-term solutions for this,” he said.

The greater goal is an improved and accessible mental healthcare system – in Colorado and across the country. Until then, DPD officers will continue to apply their CIT training to help anyone in need.

“We want to make sure we do it right and we do it right every time,” said Vogler.