Training crucial in bridge save

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CPD Sgt. Josh Bayer

Columbia Police Department Sgt. Josh Bayer was instrumental in talking a suicidal man off a steel structure underneath the Jefferson Barracks Bridge to safety the evening of April 13.

Despite the issue falling under the jurisdiction of the St. Louis County Police Department and Mehlville Fire Department, those first responders requested Bayer’s help on I-255 because he is certified in Crisis Intervention Team training. 

“When the police show up, in my mind anyway, people think ‘this event is going to turn bad’ in the eyes of the person who is suffering from the crisis,” Bayer, who has been with the CPD since 1998, explained. “So really what I was getting him to understand is ‘I’m here to help you. I don’t want to harm you anymore.’ I use those type of direct words to really try to spell out to that person how serious this is.”

CIT is a program that connects first responders with other community services to benefit those with mental disorders or addiction problems and increase officer safety. 

Bayer, who has been certified in CIT for about 10 years, credited that, along with his experience with Columbia EMS, for helping him in these types of situations. 

“My combination of working in those two things contributed to (the success on the bridge), as did my experience in dealing with people suffering from a crisis or mental illness,” Bayer said. “Adapting to what’s important now when dealing with them, I think, is probably the key to that situation.” 

“The positive outcome of this situation was in large part due to the CIT training Sgt. Bayer has received,” Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul agreed. 

The man was transported to an area hospital for additional assistance.  

The training is something more people in Monroe County will potentially have soon, as the Monroe County Criminal Justice Behavioral Health Task Force has made bringing that training to more area first responders a priority. 

Human Support Services Executive Director Anne King, co-chair of that task force, said this incident shows why CIT training is important. 

“It’s no surprise to learn that a CIT-trained officer was able to bring this to a positive outcome because we know that the skills that are taught in CIT truly prepare officers and first responders to better respond to individuals in a mental health crisis,” she said. 

Bayer will now be helping with that goal, as he was recently appointed to the task force’s steering committee on CIT training. 

That group, which, like the task force, is made of individuals in law enforcement, education, mental health and the community, is tasked with determining many of the details regarding getting CIT training in the county. 

As someone with experience in law enforcement, EMS and dispatching, Bayer said he hopes the training will help everyone who receives it be able to help people and clarify their perspectives at a scene. 

King said she was confident the training would do that. 

“This training makes a difference – a real life impact – by providing participants with the tools they need to be able to encourage individuals in crisis to get the help they need,” she said.

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