Valley company working with law enforcement to better respond to mental health crisis calls

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz (FOX 10) - The Scottsdale-based company, Axon, develops technology and weapons products for civilians and law enforcement. It's teaming up with a police department more than 1,600 miles away to bring awareness to mental health.

The scenario is one that is becoming very common, police officers nationwide are responding to calls and find the subject at hand is in distress possibly diagnosed with schizophrenia or autism.

"We're calling this empathy development training because the goal of this training is really to impart a sense of what someone is experiencing during a mental health crisis," said Laura Brown.

Laure Brown is the Senior Director of Training for Axon, a company that ships products like police body cameras worldwide.

She developed a training video, which will first be used this month by police in Chicago.

"This concept is not new this has existed in the past in terms of putting people in the shoes of somebody clinicians have used it psychologists have used it in the past but we are really putting this in a law enforcement content for officers," explained Brown.

The video is viewed by trainees through Oculus glasses. Throughout the training, there are choices, which simulate how officers are processing the sights and sounds, ultimately how they react.

"The goal of the training is to show there are some consequences even if you think you know what the right answer may be," said Brown. "If you let your partner leave in a crowded parking lot with an individual who is not calmed down yet that has the potential to escalate the situation, bystanders could come by, car could drive by, anything can happen that could further escalate the individual so these are the types of topics that we are talking through is how to keep the whole scene calm and keep people safe."

Axon announced it's empathy-based training following a survey of 500 US law enforcement professionals, which found that 80 percent of officers believe there is a need for improved agency tools and resources to effectively de-escalate dangerous situations.

The hope is this training will make a difference.

"It's not so much about the community versus the police, a lot of the officers we work with have autistic children, they have family members with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and we're starting that conversation about mental health and destigmatizing these conditions," said Brown.

Axon says it's experts worked with mental health, community, and policing experts to ensure an accurate portrayal of a service call involving someone suffering from a mental health crisis.