Talk of more training for police dominates town hall meeting

It was expected to be a sequel to the Bainbridge Island Police Department's first town hall meeting held in September, but it was more of a rerun instead.

Once again, the key issue repeatedly raised by the approximately 18 community members attending the event was mental illness and how officers deal with the mentally ill.

Interim Public Safety Director Larry Dickerson, Lieutenant Chris Jensen, Detective Michael Tovar, Harbor Master Tami Allen and Barbara Burns, assistant to the chief, attended the town hall to talk about current issues facing the police department.

Many in the crowd wanted to talk about how officers respond to incidents involving the mentally ill. The return to the topic wasn't surprising, given the recent high-profile civil rights federal court case that was prompted by the police shooting of a mentally ill islander. The court case resulted in a $1 million judgement against the city of Bainbridge Island.

Dickerson told the crowd that all officers are required to go through a 40-hour class that covers mental illness.

Jensen, however, acknowledged it wasn't enough.

"I don't think a single 40-hour class is going to do it," Jensen said. "We are already working on the fact that it has to be more than 40 hours (of training)."

Jensen noted that he has been working with Gary Carter of Kitsap Mental Health — who was also present in the crowd — to provide further assistance for officers who respond to incidents involving mentally ill community members.

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