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Court deputies who carry out evictions in Jackson County do not receive crisis intervention training

Spokesperson says they do learn de-escalation
Posted at 4:13 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 19:27:20-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — An investigation is underway after a man was shot by court deputies while being evicted last Friday.

Since the shooting occurred, the 41 Action News I-Team has been digging into the training the court deputies who carry out evictions receive.

Jackson County, Missouri, is unique in that deputies from the sheriff's office do not execute evictions. Instead, the 16th Judicial Circuit has a Department of Civil Process with its own deputies who perform those duties.

Two of those deputies were at a man's house in Blue Springs on Friday, trying to evict him for nonpayment of rent. A court spokesperson said the tenant pulled a weapon on the court deputies, who then shot him.

"I know evictions are a dangerous process," Blue Springs Police Chief Bob Muenz said at the scene of the shooting. "It can be difficult when you're forcing someone out of a residence, thus they're armed."

As evidenced in that incident, court deputies interact with people on what can be an extraordinarily difficult day of their lives.

Family members of the man shot on Friday said he was in the midst of a mental health crisis.

That led the 41 Action News I-Team to ask if the court deputies are trained in crisis intervention.

"No," Valerie Hartman, the court spokesperson, said, "However, Civil Process Deputies are trained to disengage whenever possible when faced with potentially violent situations."

Hartman added deputies attend training annually on topics including firearms, personal defense, building search and handgun retention. That training includes a review of the use of force policy.

"We review our Use of Force policy and work through various scenarios to demonstrate the application of this policy. Our policy emphasizes de-escalation, which is discussed in these training sessions," she wrote in an email to 41.

New hires must also pass a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified pistol qualification course.

However, a leader with KC Tenants, a tenants rights organization pushing for safe, affordable housing, expressed surprise and concern that crisis intervention training is not required.

"It's a life-changing event for a lot of people, and to not have any type of resources to have more preparation for the officers in serving that is crazy," KC Tenants Leader Ron Clark said.

KC Tenants organizers marched to the courthouse earlier this week to demand answers from the Civil Process Department about Friday's shooting, as well as another tenant's situation. Many questions remain.

The 41 Action News I-Team also wanted to get more answers through an interview with the department's director, but that request was denied.

So was a request for more details on the de-escalation training court deputies receive.

Finally the I-Team asked if the department ever enlists social workers or other mental health professionals for evictions. The answer to that question was no.

The court spokesperson said the department has not yet had a chance to thoroughly review what led up to the shooting last week because there is an ongoing police investigation.

The court did not say if crisis intervention training will be implemented as a result.

"We cannot comment on what we might do in the future at this point," Hartman wrote, "We are committed to constantly evaluating the training deputies receive."

The I-Team reached out to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office as well as KCPD for information on the crisis intervention training their officers receive.

Only KCPD responded, explaining that in addition to its Crisis Intervention Team, the department requires all officers to attend two hours of crisis intervention and de-escalation training each year.

On top of that, approximately 40% of KCPD officers are CIT certified, meaning they have attended at least 40 hours of training hosted by the Mid-America CIT Council.

Patrol officers and recruits that do not have that training must attend a two-day 16 hour training on mental health awareness.