University police learn how to work with the mentally ill

Morgan Day

Officers Rodney Tarry and Marty Toukonen of the Mantua Police Department try to convince a man with depression, played by Bob Russell, a graduate theater acting student, to come with them yesterday at the Crisis Intervention Team training. HEATHER STAWIC

Credit: Jason Hall

While most of the students in the Recreation and Wellness Center stuffed their dirty shoes in a locker yesterday, Dick Reiss wore his around his neck.

Reiss and Laura Cook, both first year Master of Fine Arts acting students, participated in Crisis Intervention Team training – sponsored by the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County – by portraying a married couple with schizophrenia.

About 25 people, including two officers from the Kent State Police Department, used what they learned throughout the week-long training to de-escalate acting students in multiple scenarios.

“I’m the only f—ing dog that sees in color, and none of the other f—ing dogs believes me!” Reiss shouted at the officers attempting to calm him.

Reiss and Cook went through an ad-libbed shouting match about taking medication, the brainwashing TV that would not shut off and the evil, horned Mickey Mouse. Afterward, they agreed officers did a good job handling the situation.

“I thought you were very effective,” Cook told them. “By the end, my character wanted to leave with you.”

Senior theater major Yolanda Board also lent her acting talent.

“My thing is I’m supposed to be a paranoid schizophrenic with religious preoccupation,” Board said. “So I basically went back and remembered all my prayers from church so I could use them to be psychotic.”

Officer Chuck Kulig, of the Brady Lake Police Department, attempted to calm Board down. In the scenario, Board was in a store and the owner thought she may have a gun. She ranted about God, Satan and her Bible, making sure both officers kept their distance.

“You’re the devil – You’re Satan!” she yelled at Kulig and his partner, dropping to the floor and clutching her crucifix.

Afterward, Officer Jeff Futo, of the Kent State Police Department, reminded the group about what they learned from schizophrenic psychologist Fred Frese’s lecture Monday. He said although the officers know the devil is not there, the mentally ill person sincerely believes he is.

Deputy Rich Noland, of the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, said being able to watch other participants gave him ideas on ways to make his techniques better.

“Each time we go through it, it can only help us,” Noland said.

After each scenario, officer Jeff Futo, of the Kent State Police Department, led the group in a discussion about what possible actions could’ve been taken and what the participants did well.

“We’re just trying to give you the skills to make the appropriate decisions,” Futo told the group.

Contact safety reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].