Clear Creek County leaders will work toward creating a crisis response team following the June police killing of a 22-year-old Boulder man experiencing a mental health emergency, the county sheriff announced Wednesday.
The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office will work with county commissioners to create the team, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office, though details on how the team will function remain slim. Crisis response teams are specially trained to respond to calls involving people who may be experiencing mental health problems. Many Colorado agencies operate crisis response teams or co-responder teams, including the Denver Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, though they are less common in more rural areas.
The first step will be gathering the people who need to be part of the conversation, like mental health providers and all law enforcement agencies in the county, said Clear Creek County Commissioner George Marlin. It’s too early to know whether the program will pair law enforcement with mental health providers or comprise solely of health providers, he said.
“We haven’t as a group really sat down to figure out what works for Clear Creek County,” he said.
Christian Glass called 911 for help the evening of June 10 after crashing his car in Silver Plume while experiencing an episode of paranoia. Seven officers from five agencies tried for an hour to get Glass, who repeatedly said he was afraid, to step out of the car before they decided to break one of the car’s windows.
The shattering window prompted Glass to pick up a knife and officers responded by Tasing him and shooting him with less-lethal bean bags. Clear Creek County sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Buen shot and killed Glass after Glass twisted in the driver’s seat and swiped toward an officer standing outside the broken backseat window.
Glass would still be alive had Clear Creek County operated a crisis response team in June, said attorney Siddhartha Rathod, who is representing Glass’s parents. County leaders failed to create such a team despite the recommendation of a 2020 grand jury that they seek more resources to help police work with people with mental illness, he said.
“None of the deputies involved in Christian’s murder have been disciplined and the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office deputy who shot and killed Christian is still on the street in uniform,” Rathod said in a statement. “The time for ‘research and development’ has passed and the nation must demand action and justice for Christian Glass.”
The Wednesday news release about the creation of a crisis response team is the first time Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers has communicated publicly about the shooting since the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm released body camera videos of the shooting on Sept. 13.
“This incident has been a tragedy for everyone,” Albers said in the news release.
Albers in the news release declined to provide more details about the shooting, citing the ongoing review of the incident by Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum.
Marlin said he didn’t know how long it would take to stand up a crisis response team, but that it should be a priority for the county.
“When people call for help that is what they should receive,” Marlin said.
Clear Creek county leaders have considered creating a crisis response team for several years but failed to do so, according to a recording of a Tuesday meeting of the Clear Creek Board of Commissioners. Law enforcement and commissioners discussed potential models during the meeting.
Commissioner Randall Wheelock urged fellow county leaders to make their efforts at creating a crisis response team “more urgent.”
“It’s been two years — longer actually — that we’ve been talking about it,” Commissioner Randy Wheelock said during the meeting.
A grand jury that convened in 2020 to evaluate a police shooting of a man suffering from mental illness recommended that Clear Creek County officials provide law enforcement with new resources for working with people with mental health needs.
“In the near term, the grand jury recommends to local government in Clear Creek County that they identify mental health resources, whether in or outside the county, that can be immediately made available to law enforcement to assist those individuals in mental health crisis,” the grand jury wrote in its Aug. 6, 2020, report.
In that May 9, 2020, shooting a Clear Creek County deputy shot and killed 57-year-old Darrin Patterson after a traffic stop for erratic driving that turned into a dangerous police pursuit. Two deputies — including Kyle Gould, the sergeant who supervised deputies during their interactions with Glass — contacted Patterson after he stopped his car. One of the deputies shot and killed Patterson after he allegedly pointed a gun at his own head and then at Gould. Patterson did not fire any rounds during the incident.
Idaho Springs police knew Patterson suffered from psychiatric illnesses through previous interactions, according to the grand jury, but police did not make any referrals to mental health services.
Experts told The Denver Post that the responding officers failed to effectively de-escalate and needlessly rushed to break the car window despite the fact that Glass hadn’t committed a crime.
Some of those experts questioned the deputies’ training, but he two Clear Creek deputies who arrived first on scene — Buen and Tim Collins — failed to de-escalate the incident despite recently completing de-escalation training.
Both Buen and Collins completed a four-hour “verbal de-escalation training” in January, according to documents obtained by The Denver Post through a records request.
Collins also completed an eight-hour “Mental Health First Aid” class in August 2021. Buen’s training records do not list a similar class.
All Colorado law enforcement complete at least four hours of training in the academy on interacting with people experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. Buen graduated from the Red Rocks Community College Law Enforcement Academy in December 2020 and Collins completed his POST certification in May 2018.
“The student will recognize that, in itself, a mental health crisis or disability is not criminal in nature and that a more lasting solution is to divert those persons away from the criminal justice system,” a POST training outline states.
Collins no longer works for the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, according to a roster of employees acquired by The Denver Post through a records request. A state database of officers lists his certification as “non-operational.”
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