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Gilbert police chief: Crisis intervention not always easy for officers

Posted at 5:42 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 11:25:46-04

After two officers fatally shot a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detention officer outside his home earlier this year, the Gilbert police chief is sitting down to discuss crisis intervention and the difficult decisions officers have to make.

Joshua Kinnard, 37, was shot and killed by Gilbert police back in February, when authorities say he pointed a rifle at officers outside his home.

Kinnard's fiancee has questioned the shooting, saying police were aware he struggled with PTSD and had access to weapons.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has cleared the two officers involved, one of whom was CIT trained, according to Gilbert police.

Citing pending litigation, Gilbert Police Chief Mike Soelberg declined to comment as it pertains to specifics of the Kinnard case, but says crisis intervention is not always an easy task for officers. Crisis intervention often involves dealing with those who have a mental health issue.

"We're not looking to have our officers diagnose people," Soelberg said. "We're trying to get people safe, and calmed down, and get them the appropriate treatment that they need."

Soelberg says 42% of his patrol staff is trained in crisis intervention, a number he would like to see improve to 100% within the next three years.

According to department policy, CIT officers may respond to calls where a person "poses a risk to themselves or others," such as threatening or attempting suicide.

"I wouldn't say it's black or white or gray," Soelberg said of the policy. "It's got to be designed to accommodate numerous situations, different factors, what are the options for that person?"

According to Gilbert police policy as it pertains to the Crisis Intervention Team, officers who believe there is a potential for violence can place someone in custody for an involuntary emergency evaluation.

Per the policy, this requires an officer to believe that as a result of a suspected mental disorder, the person is a danger to either himself/herself or others.

"It's no different than me arresting someone because I have probable cause to show you committed a crime," Soelberg said. "I've got to have essentially that same amount of information in order to take someone and force them to go seek treatment, and if I don't have that, then I can't take you."

While not speaking specifically to the February shooting, when asked if he is satisfied with the performance of all of his CIT officers, Chief Soelberg said, "I am."

An internal investigation into the Kinnard case is ongoing.