A scorching afternoon in Tucson in August 2020 had all the makings of a tragedy.
A local judge had ordered Tucson police to pick up a man for a mental health evaluation. The man, an Army veteran in his 30s, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia and had locked himself in his home. Police knew the man was, as one police officer put it, “actively losing touch with reality,” and he could have a weapon.
In other cities, this scenario would have resulted in a SWAT team surrounding the house in armored vehicles. Officers wearing tactical gear and snipers with high-powered rifles would target the house. In many cases, the person in a mental health crisis would have been taken against their will. Or worse, shot dead.
But not in Tucson, where the Mental Health Support Team comprises plainclothes officers and behavioral health clinicians specializing in mental health calls. The team uses its specialty training through careful planning and tested protocols to help such situations end peacefully.