Inspiring Women, Pt. 1: Team defuses crisis situations

First of four-part series about empowered women

Inspiring Women, Pt. 1: Crisis team keeps touch

BEND, Ore. - This week on NewsChannel 21, we are celebrating empowering and inspirational women. You’ll meet women who are pushing the boundaries of society and overcoming great odds to do what they love.

In our first report, we introduce you to a team at Bend Police Department with special training in crisis intervention.

The Community Response Team, or CRT, at Bend Police doesn’t ask to be in the spotlight, but the work they do has been called heroic by some of their clients.

What makes the team unique is that all of its members are women.

“Some of our clients have coined us the girl squad and it’s funny because word has gotten out and sometimes clients will call the 911 dispatch center and ask for the girl squad,” Sgt. Liz Lawrence said recently.

The ‘girl squad’ was created in October of 2015.

“If you asked me, '25 years into law enforcement, would you learn anything new?' I would have laughed and said no,” Lawrence said.

The all-female team has specialized training in crisis intervention, which helps them to de-escalate tense situations.

“These calls can be an hour to six hours in length, depending on the type of crisis,” Lawrence said.

The term "crisis" can be scary, but for these women, it’s become their passion.

“Just by calling the police for a mental health crisis in one’s family, they think that person will be taken away in handcuffs. That is our last resort.” Officer Kecia Weaver said.

Instead, they build relationships with people before the time of crisis strikes.

“There are several clients that I will just call or even text, just to check in,” Weaver said.

Lawrence added, “Helps them realize I’m not just a uniform, I’m also a person.”

It’s the constant checking in that keeps not just the clients, but also the caregivers at ease.

“Our experience with law enforcement prior to the team being in place was an emergency situation," said Bethlehem Inn Managing Director Chris Clouart. "You had to call the police, the police had to come by and deal with the situation in front of you.

"Having this relationship not only makes us feel good, because we are having communication. but also shows the community that this is a good and safe place to be,” Clouart added.

It’s a different kind of policing, in an effort to stop the problem before it even happens.

“There are times when we are sitting on a curb with a client, there are times we are hugging, holding hands. Sometimes they want us to pray with them,” Lawrence said.

A team made of up only women, working hard in the shadows of Central Oregon.

“We get the job done, just like the guys!” Weaver said.

Both Lawrence and Weaver also volunteer in their off time for various foundations to bring awareness to mental health in Central Oregon.

For more resources on how to help people in crisis of pondering suicide - including yourself - visit our Let's Talk page.

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