In the wake of the police shooting death of David Kerstetter, I was told by the D.C. police department that its point man on issues related to dealing with residents in crisis is Commander Brian Jordan. Kerstetter had long suffered with his bipolar diagnosis. When the police arrived at his Logan Circle condo on November 6, Kerstetter was in crisis.
While police administrators were pushing Jordan publicly as their go-to guy, I learned that he was actually no longer charged with dealing with this mental-health issue. In fact, at the time of Kersetter’s death, Jordan had already been transferred to head up the department’s school security division. He had made the move around a month or so ago.
Since Chief Cathy Lanier isn’t returning my requests for an interview, I went ahead and interviewed Jordan today. I thought he could offer some insight in how the D.C. police are trained in handling residents who are suicidal or are having a bad reaction to their meds or are just having a freak-out moment.
As we reported in our cover story, the Department of Mental Health had established crisis response teams but had failed to formalize its protocols with the police. It hadn’t sent their memorandum of understanding to the police until the day after the shooting of Kerstetter.
Jordan says it was the D.C. police that spurred on the creation of these response teams: “That response team was created at the suggestion and direction of the Metropolitan Police Department.” He adds that he met with DMH for about 18 months, and helped to start a pilot program in the 1st District.
Jordan still insists that much of the responsibility in responding to residents in crisis rests with cops, but he is unclear on what kind of training they get. He may be super-articulate in taking credit (see quote above), but he is wildly inarticulate in explaining the actual knowledge that officers take with them to any scene like the one that unfolded with Kerstetter.
Cops appear to be training with the broadest brush; it is a training session that is not quite specific to mentally-ill residents. I remain very unsure as to what exactly the department does to train its rank and file.
Jordan goes on to mention that DMH may be in the process of implementing more training at the police academy. But who that’s for, what that consists of, and when it’s going to be put in place, Jordan wasn’t sure. Again, he’s no longer in charge of such things.
Whether the mobile crisis response teams could have helped Kerstetter, Jordan doesn’t know either. But he says DMH should have gotten their memorandum of understanding signed with the police department if they were already running response teams. The teams had started up in October and were fully operational on Nov. 1—-days before the police shot and killed Kerstetter.
“If they told you they were up and running prior to the signing of the [MOU], you’d have to discuss it with them,” Jordan says. “It wasn’t our expectation that it would be a joint project until we agreed to [the MOU].”
On the one hand, Jordan insists the police department created these teams, are the first-responders, and are trained in an unspecific way to handle cases like Kerstetter’s. On the other hand, he blames the Department of Mental Health for not getting that piece of paper signed.
I have calls into DMH. Maybe they can help clarify.
Photo of David Kerstetter provided by Kerstetter family