Richland County sheriff's deputies and Columbia police officers will get more training on how to better handle the mentally ill.
The pledges of more training in crisis intervention — by Richland Sheriff Leon Lott and Columbia police Chief Skip Holbrook — came Monday night during a gathering of some 1,200-plus interfaith religious activists, who call themselves More Justice.
The activists, who gathered Monday at Brookland Baptist Church, came from 25 Midlands churches — African-American and white — and two synagogues. They expressed concern that Midlands police need more training in how to de-escalate situations involving the mentally ill.
Lott and Holbrook said Tuesday that their officers — Lott has roughly 800 deputies and Holbrook has 380 officers — already have some training in how to deal with the mentally ill, adding they don't have many violent incidents. But additional training will be good for officers, they said.
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In the education arena, the activists urged Richland County school districts 1 and 2 to adopt "discipline scorecards" for each public school so the public can begin to have an intelligent discussion about how to identify, address and eliminate troublesome behavior.
The Charleston school district is a model for transparent reporting of discipline issues, said Morgan Lee of Columbia's St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.
While Richland 1 and 2 superintendents and school board members were invited to Monday night's meeting, only Richland 1 board member Darrell Black attended. He told the activists he liked the ideas.
Spokeswomen for Richland 1 and 2 told The State on Tuesday their districts have held discussions with More Justice and have enacted their own strategies to reduce discipline problems and create positive behavioral changes. The districts have seen positive changes from those efforts, the spokeswomen said.
The activists dubbed their meeting a "Nehemiah Action," a reference to a Biblical figure who organized people to confront authority directly.