Omaha Police negotiators and mental health co-responders deepen collaboration

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – 6 News spoke with two people who helped bring an armed standoff Tuesday to a peaceful conclusion.

The suspect, who is now charged with six counts of sexual assault of a child, expressed suicidal thoughts when detectives arrived.

The armed standoff involved multiple officers, a SWAT team, negators, and mental health co-responders — a coordinated effort.

Sergeant Brent Kendall was one of the negotiators on the scene.

“The situations that we’re going to are above the normal crisis that we might deal with, so we really need people who can stay calm, communicate effectively, think on their feet. Situations change dynamically, so we have to be able to adjust,” he said.

Also on the scene at 78th and Crown Point was mental health co-responder Ashley Brugmann.

“With people in crisis, there’s no need to rush. There’s no need to assert power or tell people what to do. It’s all about having a conversation. I think that’s the biggest key in de-escalation,” she said.

Omaha Police have started training officers on mental health de-escalation with crisis response teams.

Omaha Police have six certified mental health professionals called co-responders, with at least one in each of the city’s precincts.

“I’ve noticed significant buy-in. We are very active within the police precinct. And they are always asking us, collaborating with us, just trying to pump up our program and utilize us as much as possible,” said Brugmann, who has been a co-responder for over a year.

The program has been around for a few years, but now they’re helping train officers on techniques used for mental health situations.

“Some of our co-responders have recently been through the Mental Health First Aid training and Policing the Teen Brain. So we’re able to help train officers in those different types of aspects in mental health as well as provide crisis intervention training and service training as well,” said Brugmann.

Kendall agreed how important the trainings are. He told 6 News that all officers go through mental health and crisis intervention trainings with those co-responders as a part of their curriculum.

“Any officer than can show up to a scene, we want them to have those skills so that hopefully situations can be resolved before they get to the point where they need a specialized team to come in,” he said. “They obviously have training and resources that we don’t have, so we’re very happy to have them along in those calls.”