Lafayette PD suspends mental health initiative

Lafayette police and deputy marshals on a neighborhood walk in May 2021. Photo by Travis Gauthier

The Lafayette Police Department has suspended its recently launched initiative to send specially trained officers to mental health-related calls.

Police officials cited a lack of staff to man regular patrol while several officers are out on administrative leave following officer-involved shootings.

“We, like many other agencies, are always trying to work through staffing challenges,” LPD Chief Judith Estorge said via email. “The CARES program is a great initiative, but me and my command staff have to constantly assess the needs of the community, and devote our resources to where they are most needed.”

With six officers currently on administrative leave while outside agencies investigate shootings they were involved in, the two officers trained specifically to assist with mental health calls have been reassigned to regular patrol.

But, Estorge pointed out, “due to their specialized training, they are still able to provide response to mental health calls.”

The chief also said the department plans to expand the number of officers to receive more in-depth training on handling those types of calls. “We have several officers who have been certified as crisis intervention instructors and we will soon begin implementation of providing that education to all officers,” Estorge said.

While the CARES program, which designated officers specifically to handle mental health calls, is temporarily suspended, it is not terminated, according to Estorge.

LPD and other local law enforcement agencies have tested new approaches around mental health crises, largely recognizing a need to shift tactics as police encounter the issue more often on the beat.

In 2023, LPD scuttled a proposed partnership between the department and a Mandeville-based mental health care provider amid criticism from local organizations and went back to the drawing board in search of a new option.