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How Tulsa Police Handle The Mentally Ill

Tulsa Police spent two hours Tuesday, tracking down a woman they say threatened to kill her child and herself. When they found her, they didn't take her to jail, but to a mental health facility.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright talked Tuesday about how the officers saved the little boy, but they also saved his mother.

The Tulsa Police Department is one of the best in the nation for training officers to handle the mentally ill. Seth certainly captured the hearts of the officers who took him away from his mother after they say she told a social worker she was going to cut off his head, then hurt herself.

In years past, Seth's mom, might've been taken to jail, but not now, she was instead, taken to a mental health agency for an evaluation.

Tulsa Police Captain Tracie Crocker: "These are not criminals, they are sick people, so we deal with them compassionately, maintaining our safety, because taking care of ourselves and the public comes first, then after safety is taken care of, we get them the help they need, it's the right thing to do, they're not criminals, they're sick."

Tulsa Police rookies get more than 50 hours of mental health training, plus the department offers a 40-hour advanced class. That's what some officers were taking on Wednesday. It is intense training that involves role-playing and scenarios. Once they've completed the class, they'll be certified mental health response officers who can be called to scenes where a person is unstable.

"We get this person some services and get them set up to deal with this mental illness, versus taking them to jail and we don't deal with them again, they're now on the road to getting help."

That approach will ensure that Seth's mom gets counseling or a diagnosis or medication, whatever it is that will help her get back into life.

Of the 1,300 calls to 911 last year involving a mentally ill person, only 30 were sent to the Tulsa County jail. Many don't know how to get help and that contact with police, sends them in the right direction.

Lori Fullbright talked to Seth's father Wednesday. He says his wife's comment was blown out of proportion on Tuesday. He says she was frustrated she couldn't get any more help with her heating bill so said in anger, "what do you want me to do, cut off his head and mail it to you in a box?" He says she didn't mean it and has been a good mother.

Lori also talked to Seth's grandmother. She says she and her daughter went Christmas shopping last weekend and talked every day and she's never heard her daughter say anything about hurting Seth.

A Tulsa County judge will consider all that when deciding whether the boy should be returned home.
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