Sheriff’s Office Revises Crisis Intervention, Anti-Bias Training

In response to the beating death of a mentally ill inmate, Santa Clara County will require crisis intervention training for all sheriff’s deputies and correctional officers.

The Sheriff’s Office has offered the 40-hour course for the past decade, but it will now include the course as part of the basic academy and correctional officer curriculum at the county’s Justice Training Center.

“This will directly result in a higher level of preparedness in future peace officers’ ability to engage and interact with mentally ill persons within the community as well as within the correctional facilities in the more effective and safe manner,” said Sheriff Laurie Smith, who will present a report on the issue at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “Also, the department is researching [crisis training] that is specific to the custody environment.”

The classes, offered in collaboration with the county’s Mental Health Department, teach officers how to recognize people with mental illness. There’s also a focus on identifying potential disorders and minimizing escalations to avoid force.

Just last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed off on a new state law that requires basic law enforcement training to address mental illness, intellectual disability and substance use disorders.

According to Sheriff Smith, more than 200 deputies have undergone crisis intervention training, including 122 sheriff’s deputies and 85 jail guards. To increase those numbers, the county will require each division in both enforcement and corrections to release a certain percentage of their staff for the training.

Meanwhile, the county will develop its own curriculum to teach deputies how to minimize personal bias.

Cadets currently receive five hours of training on racial profiling followed by a 24-hour block on bias-based policing and cultural diversity. At the end of each academy, they travel to the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, a human rights educational center. After academy training, deputies take a two-hour anti-bias class at least every five years as well as training on LGBTQ issues.

Correctional cadets, who plan to work inside the jails, take several more classes on recognizing implicit bias and how to monitor the mental health of inmates. The Corrections Academy also offers classes on gender, disability law and the Prison Rape Elimination Act and sexual harassment.

After reviewing existing curriculum, Sheriff Smith plans to develop an in-hour anti-bias training and a train-the-trainer approach. Once the coursework is approved by the state, she will ask supervisors for overtime funding to fill in for deputies while they attend training.

Supervisors asked Sheriff Smith to review implicit bias and crisis intervention curriculum after three jail guards allegedly beat to death mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree in August.

More from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agenda for November 3, 2015:

  • Some 44 cars a day are stolen countywide, according to the Regional Auto Theft Task Force. To keep up with the growing incidence of theft, the task force is asking the county to double the vehicle license fee from $1 to $2, which would push annual revenue to $1.3 million.
  • Supervisor Ken Yeager wants to find out if the 62-year-old merry-go-round in the Cambrian Park Plaza qualifies as a historical landmark. The carousel was built in 1953 by local developer Paul Schaeffer and, Yeager said, reminds longtime residents of the region’s pre-Silicon Valley era. “When asked to define the Cambrian neighborhood, many residents say that the Cambrian Park Carousel is the heart of this well-established community,” Yeager wrote in a memo. “By recognizing [its] historic value … we can ensure that it continues to turn as our valley evolves with time.”
  • Santa Clara University will reserve 10 spots for county officials in upcoming government ethics courses. “Government ethics scandals continue to occupy the front pages of newspapers with alarming frequency,” Supervisor Joe Simitian wrote in a memo recommending that the county set aside $6,250 to sponsor the classes at SCU’s Markkulla Center for Applied Ethics. “As a result, levels of public trust in government and civic engagement remain historically low.” Under state law, local elected officials have to undergo training to learn about ethics laws, conflicts of interest, transparency and fair processes.

WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Office, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Clerk of the Board, 408.299.5001

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. I’ll believe it when I see it. A 40 hour course? Will that extend academies by a week? or cut 40 hours of training elsewhere? What is the perishable skills training schedule? How seriously will she take it when no one is looking anymore? The sheriff is not known for her commitment to training excellence

    For that matter, she’s not know for her commitment to much more than empty promises

    We’ve been talking about these training issues since 2013. We’re hardly the only ones who have noticed problems and been openly ignored by the sheriff and her administration

  2. — At the end of each academy, they travel to the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, a human rights educational center. —

    These self-proclaimed purveyor’s of tolerance belong to the most intolerant tribe in the Western World, one that is currently working to equate the criticism of Israel on American campuses to a hate crime, after having successfully turned the investigation of one area of WWII history into a one-way ticket to prison in 14 European nations. What is intolerable is that a single tax dollar might go to these unscrupulous enemies of freedom.

    • My friends, I am saying this sincerely and in all honesty: I was once thrown out of a “crisis intervention training class” or ( “asked to leave” is the sensitive phrase) because I told the instructor that her soft, saccharin sweet, sensitive approach in trying to reason with a mentally ill person who had become a police problem was destined to fail because “de-compensating” mentally ill people are, by definition NOT RATIONAL.

      This training came in the aftermath of a police shooting involving a mentally unstable person who was waiving a large knife around.and who then suddenly lunged at a bystander. The instructor told us that police too often resort to force (especially deadly force, she thought) when they don’t need to because they lack sufficient communication skills to deescalate the situation (something her 3 hour training class would supposedly remedy).

      While it may not have been the best, most diplomatic, way to respond to her, I took out and opened my (3″ blade) pocket knife, waived it around above my head while seated at my desk and told her to see if she could talk me in to putting it down. Naturally, she was appalled, recoiled slightly (from 20′ away?) and had no answer when I asked her why it was that she thought she could talk some bi-polar whack-job, who was off his medication and had just smoked weed, in to putting his knife down when she couldn’t even figure out how to get me, sober and in a classroom setting, to put away a pocket knife.

      Here’s the point: With a somewhat timid look on her face, she immediately looked over to a sergeant who was sitting there.(The instructor, effectively, “called the police”) The sergeant “broke his training” and told me to “Put that g**d*** knife back in your pocket before I shove it up your a**!” I told the sarge that I thought he was being very insensitive, to which he told me that if I said one more word in that class, he would put his boot up one of my “sensitive” areas. Insensitive as the sarge was,THAT WORKED!. I put my pocket knife away and I didn’t say another word but was told not to come back to class after lunch.

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