SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4) – The Unified Police Department says it is dealing with more mental health-related calls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sgt. Melody Cutler said SWAT standoffs seem to be escalating quicker than before and happening more often.

She believes the rise in cases is due to mental health-related outbursts exacerbated by the pandemic.

This weekend’s almost 24-hour SWAT standoff in Millcreek was a situation that affected more than 70 officers who responded to the scene and the mental health of those who survived.

As we reported on Saturday, three people died in that SWAT standoff. Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera says these responses are getting out of control quicker than they used to.

Cutler says people’s behavior has noticeably changed nowadays and that’s why UPD goes through mental health training every year.

Cutler says there’s no way to tell whether an officer is in the midst of a mental health crisis until it’s actually happening, which is why they need to be experts who are ready and prepared to de-escalate a situation.

“Jail is not the place for the mentally ill,” Cutler says. “You do not better them by putting them in jail, so we try to do other interventions other than incarceration.”

UPD employs social workers in case a mental health crisis needs to be resolved.

They also will help provide mental health resources to those who need may need it.

UPD said they are looking to do more with its Metro Mental Health Unit.

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