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Overland Park to fund Crisis Intervention Training for all police officers

Decision comes after 2-year push from teen's mom
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Posted at 6:44 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 19:58:17-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The idea is to save lives.

With that goal in mind, Overland Park City Manager Bill Ebel has decided to fund Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT, for all of the city's 258 sworn officers.

The move comes after a two-year push from Sheila Albers since her son, John, was shot and killed as he backed out of the family's driveway by former Overland Park Police Officer Clayton Jenison in 2018.

Doorbell video from a neighbor's house showed Jenison responding for a welfare check on John Albers, a 17-year-old who was having a mental health crisis, in January 2018.

As the garage door at the Albers' home starts to open, the video shows Jenison pulls his gun out of his holster before the teen starts to back up the family minivan.

"When he responded to my son, who was emotionally in a really bad place, he had no CIT training," Sheila said.

Jenison fired 13 times at John's vehicle, striking him six times, and later claimed the boy tried to run him over. He was cleared of wrongdoing and never charged with a crime.

At that time, about half the Overland Park Police force had CIT training. Jenison did not.

It's been a point of contention for Sheila ever since.

"I have pushed on Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez to get all our officers CIT trained," she said.

Until very recently, Donchez resisted those calls for department-wide CIT, though he did announce new mental health training for officers in January 2020.

Overland Park City Councilman Chris Newlin, the chair of the city's Mental Health Task Force, said several discussions with Donchez helped change the chief's mind.

Ebel said at Monday night's council meeting he will find the roughly $80,000 needed in the budget to have CIT for all of the city's officers beginning next year.

"We came out with a big win, and that's progress," Newlin said.

But Newlin and other advocates didn't get everything they want.

The Mental Health Task Force's original proposal was to have a new CIT unit complete with a sergeant, officers and enough social workers to cover around-the-clock need at a cost of $2.2 million.

The proposal included an increase in the property tax rate, which Newlin said would've amounted to roughly $30 more in taxes for the average homeowner per year. It failed on a 7-5 vote.

Newlin, who was new to the city council in 2018 when John was killed, said he was motivated by that tragedy.

"That happened two weeks after I was sworn in," Newlin said. "It sits with me every single day, and I want to make sure that doesn't happen again."

While Newlin said he'll continue to push for the proposal, he's also encouraged CIT will now be universal for the Overland Park Police Department.

"100%, it's going to save lives," he said.

Even though it's too late for her son, Sheila agreed.

Overland Park will become just the second Johnson County city to have all its officers undergo CIT, joining Roeland Park.

The 41 Action News Investigative Team reached out to Donchez for comment about the prospect of universal CIT for his force, but there's been no response.

An I-Team investigation revealed last week that Jenison was paid $70,000 to resign from the Overland Park Police Department.

Sean Reilly, a spokesman for the city of Overland Park, confirmed that council members were told about the severance package on April 30, 2018, in an executive session.

The separation agreement's terms came three months after the shooting, more than two months after Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe decided not to charge Jenison with a crime and nearly two months after Jenison's resignation became official.

Newlin said he remembers being told there was a settlement with Jenison at the April 30, 2018, meeting, but he does not remember the amount.

Ebel, as city manager, can spend up to $100,000 without council approval.

"Even though he can do it, I believe it was mismanagement on Ebel's part," Sheila said.

The Albers family settled a civil lawsuit over John's death for $2.3 million in January 2019.

Sheila also has fought for more transparency surrounding investigations into shootings by police officer's in Kansas.