INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Every day, police officers encounter people on the “worst day of their life."
Sometimes that person can have a mental disability or be suicidal, so it’s important that officers are equipped and trained to respond.
It was a about a week ago when officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department responded to West 25th Street for a disturbance call. When they arrived, the person wanted to take his own life and the patrol officer was left with one solution to save him: the "Less Lethal Launcher."
IMPD says patrol officers have used the "Less Lethal Launcher" twice since the department got the tool in 2017.
"It seems like it’s a new tool, but the reality of it is our SWAT guys have been using it years," said IMPD officer Aaron Hamer.
The launcher helps officers when they encounter someone dealing with a mental problem or if they encounter a situation that doesn’t require lethal force.
"When you’re in close proximity to a person who has knife, you can be stabbed, so it shows the restraint of the officer. It also shows the importance of the quality of life that we believe all of our members in the community should have," Hamer said.
"The police have a lot things on their plate and mental illness and substance abuse is such a growing part of their time," said Tim Otsu, a crisis specialist with Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center.
IMPD and Eskanazi’s partnership started in 2011 and has since grown into the Mobile Crisis Assistance Team.
"We pair an Eskenazi clinician with an IMPD officer to respond to mental health crises in real time," Otsu said.
As of last year, Eskenazi followed up on more than 3,000 individuals that police brought to the hospital. They received another 1,800 referrals from officers for mental health or substance abuse follow ups.
"What that means is the police, with all the training they’ve gone through, are really identifying mental health concerns," Otsu said.
Otsu said police officers are usually the first ones to respond, so it’s important they’re equipped with the appropriate knowledge and training tools like the "Less Lethal Launcher." The tool led to a positive outcome in the West 25th Street case.
"The individual is doing well and it ultimately saved his life," Hamer said.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 1-800-273-8255.