Red River Valley SWAT reports they are dealing with more mental health crisis calls

When SWAT team members arrived in Fairmount, North Dakota on Thursday, March 3, the situation was tense. Local law enforcement said mental health was a concern, and that is what SWAT negotiators are finding with more and more incidents they respond to.

Members from the Red River Valley SWAT Team watch a home in Fairmount, ND on Thursday, March 3rd.
Matt Henson / WDAY-TV

FARGO — The local Red River Valley SWAT team is made up of deputies, police officers and EMS from the metro area, and more and more they are called to tense standoffs involving people with mental health issues.

Their goal is to use training to get that needed outcome. Trent Stanton is a West Fargo Police officer who is the SWAT Negotiation Team Leader.

"Whatever pace we need to work at, trying to open up those lines of communication, build rapport with that person that's going through whatever crisis they're going through so they learn to trust us, because we may end up dealing with them a different day so we want them to trust talking to us," Stanton said.

Near Alexandria, Minnesota, law enforcement can call on a four-county mental health team that can be called to a crisis situation.

The Red River Valley region does have a mobile response crisis unit in addition to SWAT, in hopes issues get resolved before a huge law enforcement presence is needed. But when SWAT is called, the frequent training pays off.


"We are looking for ways continually to help our officers when they are responding to those situations by getting them further training, and so we have been training in this area for a awhile with crisis intervention training and some other deescalation methods that we use, and so I think we'll continue down that path because right now mental health calls for service are definately increasing," Cass County Sheriff, Jesse Jahner, said.

While some SWAT teams in larger cities include mental health experts, it is rare they can approach to help quickly, until it is safe to approach.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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