Police officers receive special training

Two Wilton police officers participated this summer in a week-long training program on crisis intervention that was designed to better prepare them for dealing with mentally unstable or intoxicated people.

The training session, called safe resolutions for situations involving persons in emotional or psychiatric crisis, was offered free in June by Grace Farms Foundation, a nonprofit group based in New Canaan, in partnership with the Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement.

The two Wilton officers were Sgt. Anthony Cocco and Officer William Whitman.

“The training is really how to deal, when you respond, with someone mentally unstable, who has been going through a major trauma,” said Rod Khattabi, Grace Farms Foundation director of safety and justice initiative adviser.

Khattabi spent time this summer teaching officers from around the region in subjects that included the use of state-of-the-art technology in the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers, collaboration between caseworkers and law enforcement, and safe resolutions for psychiatric crises.

“They are given the training and the tools, mainly patrol officers, to safely assist and de-escalate,” Khattabi said. “They may find someone who is really high. How do you deal with people in a psychological emotional crisis?”

These situations can escalate, sometimes resulting in violence. It doesn’t have to be that way, Khattabi said. For example, officers can return at another time when the person is not impaired and clear-headed, to serve summonses or address issues further.

Other officers have trained at Grace Farm Foundation, too. Detective Scott Sear had training in cyber security, Khattabi said.

“Training is always good, it keeps you sharp and you keep learning,” he said.

The nonprofit foundation began in 2015 and Khattabi has been active there since 2016.

That role is important because state-level funding has dwindled, and police officers are increasingly limited in their ability to receive imperative career education.

As a part of its justice initiative, Grace Farms has hosted more than 20 state and local law enforcement departments and federal agencies, including Homeland Security and the FBI, to provide training in a supportive environment.