But Mr. Alexander, who is also a clinical psychologist, said the Rochester police placed less importance on the training after he and Mr. Weaver stepped down from the department in the mid-2000s.
“We left the playbook to continue this program,” he said. “It is clear that that never took place.”
Last month, after the footage of Mr. Prude’s arrest gained national attention, Rochester officials announced plans to form crisis intervention teams that would include clinicians and social workers and would respond to calls of people under mental stress and determine if the police are needed. Other cities have started using similar teams with some success, including Denver; Olympia, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon.
“We’re trying to work and move into a direction where what happened to the Prude family will never happen again,” Councilman Lightfoot said.
In New York City, 16,000 officers have gone through a four days of “crisis intervention training” since 2015, including role playing, lectures and conversations with individuals with mental illness who have had encounters with the police. (The training was suspended this year after the department faced pandemic-related budget cuts.)
Officials with the New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services said recruits in cities like Rochester are required to take a 20-hour course titled “the Fundamentals of Crisis Intervention,” where they learn how to minimize the use of force during mental health calls.
Phillip Atiba Goff, founder of the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank at Yale University, said that while training can help, most officers are ill-equipped to make the right decisions when confronted with mentally ill people.
“There is no way you can train police officers well enough that they can be frontline mental health workers, especially crisis mental health workers,” Mr. Goff said. “It’s very clear that if there had been a medical expert there, there also would’ve been different treatment and a different response.”
Troy Closson contributed reporting. Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.