Training and policy allow police officers to arrest and charge people experiencing symptoms of severe mental illnesses. The procedures, however, do not appear to incorporate effective methods to diffuse mental health incidents and seem to stem from the notion that criminal prosecution is an effective vehicle for mentally ill citizens to "get help." This flawed process temporarily incarcerates individuals but often fails to deliver the desperately needed permanent treatment, care and community support. At its worst, these procedures have led to police shootings of mentally ill citizens. Fatal shootings in Quincy, Massachusetts and Dallas, Texas are well publicized recent examples.
On June 8, 2015, the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy conducted training titled "Hearing Voices." This sensitivity training initiative is part of a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team training course. The Fairfax Times detailed officer responses to the training, which consisted of listening to recordings that purportedly replicate the daily, invasive hallucinations heard by citizens suffering from schizophrenia.
This training is a positive step toward implementation of severely needed substantial reforms to the treatment of Virginia citizens suffering from mental illness.