SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Police Department paused Monday to recognize officers who intervened and stopped people who were contemplating suicide.
As officers field more mental health calls, they’re learning to respond to them in a totally different way.
Ofc. Emilio De La Rosa and his partner were honored for saving a man who threatened to jump off the interstate.
"If he leaned over just enough, he was going to pretty much fall face, first,” Ofc. De La Rosa remembers.
Ofc. Sonny Kretzer and Ofc. Jessica Saenz were honored for helping a military veteran in crisis.
"He was suffering with PTSD,” says Ofc. Kretzer, a fellow veteran. "Honestly, I even shed a few tears with the gentleman.”
"He had a knife and was threatening to hurt himself,” Ofc. Saenz adds. "Ultimately allowed us to take him to get help."
Both men survived because the police officers listened.
"And that's all he needed. He just wanted somebody to talk to,” Ofc. De La Rosa says.
The officers credit the training they got from the Crisis Intervention Team.
"We are starting to get away from the two-minute 'cuff 'em and stuff 'em,'" Ofc. John Sabo explains.
He says the 40-hour class teaches officers how to step back, listen and really hear what someone in pain is saying. Often, the officers are able to direct them to mental health services instead of jail.
All officers receive the raining when they go through the academy and get a refresher course each year.
"We tell everybody: you've got this belt with all this equipment on it. You've got handcuffs. You've got a Taser. You've got a firearm,” Ofc. Sabo says. “But the reality of it is, the tool that we're providing them in active listening is something that they'll use every single day."
During Monday’s ceremony, community member Bryan Brown spoke to the latest class from the heart.
"It touches me very deeply. I have a family member with mental illness,” Brown says.
He described how officers with the specialized training make a difference by de-escalating a volatile situation.
"That officer is there to help them,” Brown says. “And if that can be communicated to the person in need, the situation is so much better."
By EMILY BAUCUM