Northern Colorado Police Departments Undergo Alzheimer's & Dementia Training

Many law enforcement agencies across the State of Colorado are working to better prepare their officers on how to interact with those experiencing mental crisis.

Video Transcript

MEKIALAYA WHITE: And one of the reforms that are happening stem from the brutal arrest of a woman with dementia for trying to take $14 worth of items from a Walmart without paying.

Two officers face charges and no longer work for the Loveland Police Department. Our Dillon Thomas has covered Karen Garner's case. And Dillon, you live in northern Colorado. And you've reported on many police reforms going on there.

DILLON THOMAS: Mekialaya, this was concerning for more than just the public. It was concerning for many in the policing world as well, to the point where the chief of police in Loveland actually applauded the arrest of his two former officers. Since then, Loveland and other outside agencies unrelated to that arrest have stepped up their training, making sure that officers know how to interact with those living with dementia.

KAREN GARNER: I'm going home.

DILLON THOMAS: The arrest of Karen Garner, a woman with dementia, has served as a lesson to many. While officers may not know what they are walking into, they can have training on how to identify someone living with Alzheimer's or dementia.

BRIAN SCOTT: We watch the news, too. And we asked ourselves, is this something we can do. Is it something we're trained in? The answer was, yes, we can do it. And no, we weren't trained.

DILLON THOMAS: Which is why Commander Brian Scott and the Firestone Police Department went through training on how to interact with those living with dementia.

BRIAN SCOTT: It helps us work with the citizens a little bit safer.

DILLON THOMAS: Firestone officers now know what signs to look for.

BRIAN SCOTT: Blank stares may be an orientation issue. They could be lost. They may do things that they normally would not do if they weren't suffering from Alzheimer's.

DILLON THOMAS: The online training only took a couple of hours, but helped officers understand how they can better assist those in distress.

BRIAN SCOTT: Not everybody is the same. And there's not just one approach for everybody that's out there. Since we've done the training, I do know of one instance that, you know, it's actually come to fruition. And you know, we had an officer in contact with an individual, you know, suffering from Alzheimer's. And we did have a different end result than we probably would have otherwise. There's no reason why other departments shouldn't do it.

DILLON THOMAS: Both Firestone and Loveland Police have had all of their patrol officers go through these similar trainings. Both agencies tell me that it was informative, and it will end up helping officers and the public better interact and keep everybody safe during times of crisis.

Reporting live in northern Colorado, Dillon Thomas, "Covering Colorado First."