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UT Police Training, Peer Support Essential to Department Readiness and Health

April 08, 2022
Victoria Ralls

UT Police at Houston officers are fully licensed state peace officers who provide police services to two separate institutions, MD Anderson and UTHealth Houston. Officers respond to a wide range of calls that place them in environments both inside and outside of the institutions and in the general Texas Medical Center area. Due to the dynamic environment, variety of calls, and the needs of the institutions, UT Police are trained to respond to an array of situations, including crisis management. For the added benefit of our own staff’s wellbeing, the UT Police Peer Support Program has also been created for any mental health intervention issues specifically impacting law enforcement professionals. 

All UT Police commissioned peace officers who are eligible to obtain Mental Health Officer certifications do so through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and undergo extensive training throughout the year. Training courses cover topics such as communication and de-escalation, mood disorders, personality disorders, cognitive disorders, psychopharmacology, and suicide. 

Understanding why and what an individual could be going through aids in the approach officers take when responding to distress calls. 

UT Police also has several certified Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) instructors. The nationally recognized ABLE training program prepares officers to successfully intervene, with the goal of preventing harm and promoting a law enforcement culture that supports peer intervention. 

“ABLE training equips our officers with the necessary tools and knowledge to intervene appropriately, avoid misconduct, costly mistakes, and strives to have a positive impact on the institution and University Community,” said Sergeant Isaac Graham, the department’s ABLE program manager and an ABLE instructor. “Our department’s instructors are committed to promoting and providing peer intervention through policy, training, support, and accountability.” 

In response to the many stresses placed on officers by their profession, Lieutenant Justin Taylor and Captain Wayne Smith also recently implemented the UT Police Peer Support Program. The Peer Support Program has 11 trained members who have received formal training in listening skills and are able to recognize, help to prevent, and understand the effects of stress. 

It is an opportunity available for discussing issues or pressures, and for many, “just talking about your problem to a peer who understands can help,” Taylor said.  

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