Dallas PD trains for calls dealing with mentally-ill suspects

Dallas police officers are getting ahead of the justice department’s demand for changes in police training for confrontations with mentally ill suspects with a new program.

The order specifically deals with incidents where something other than deadly force could have been used.

Dallas police are implementing a program that focuses on keeping everyone calm instead of a confrontation.

More than 120,000 times a year, Dallas police respond to what’s called a signal 46 -- someone with a mental condition that is out of control

“And that can range anywhere from someone not having medication and wishing to go to a facility to get their medication to someone that is having a psychotic episode and needing emergency detention,” explained Dallas Police Deputy Chief Christina Smith.

It's also a call that can go bad fast.

Jason Harrison's mother called police because her son was off his meds and making threats. He had a screwdriver and came toward officers who opened fire. He was killed.

The justice department says it happens too often and urges police departments do more in the way of training

After the incident with Jason Harrison, Dallas Police Chief David Brown changed how officers respond to these calls

“We have four officers and a supervisor who are dispatched to a 46 call. And depending on the comments of the call, when the call taker is talking to the caller, we will also dispatch an ambulance. And we've been doing that for the past couple of years now,” said Smith. “What we really try to stress to these officers is that everything needs to be slowed down and just be patient and just really talk to these individuals because most of 'em just want someone to listen to them and understand what the situation is with them.

Dallas police have partnered with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute the past ten months or so to look at ways both law enforcement and the medical community can come together to better serve 911 calls.