Phoenix Police officers get training about traumatic brain injuries

Sep 19, 2018, 4:46 PM | Updated: 5:20 pm




PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department and the Barrow Neurological Institute teamed up to teach officers how to identify and better communicate with people who have traumatic brain injuries.

Ashley Bridwell, a social worker with Barrow, said one of the goals of the program “is to ensure that officers have a successful interaction with an individual with a traumatic brain injury.”

She said these individuals can come off as being noncompliant or not respecting authority when encountering police.

“Often times, it’s a result of an individual with traumatic brain injury having difficulty following instructions, having difficulty reading verbal cues and nonverbal cues, and having difficulty with the chaos of a scene,” she said. “All of these things potentially can lead to an unsuccessful interaction.”

She said combat veterans, the homeless and domestic violence victims are among those who experience traumatic brain injuries.

“Educating the Phoenix Police Department on traumatic brain injuries specifically with those populations we feel like it’s going to increase successful interactions and hopefully deescalate potentially problematic interactions between the two communities,” Bridwell said.

The first-of-its-kind program was established last year after Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams called for training on mental health awareness for all new officers. It includes a presentation by Bridwell about the signs of a traumatic brain injury and mental health issues.

It also includes testimony from people, like Adam Pepiton, who have traumatic brain injuries. Pepiton, who uses a wheelchair and is rehabilitating at Barrow, got his injury after being shot in the head during a drive-by shooting eight years ago.

He said that in his presentation to officers, he goes over issues he and others with traumatic brain injuries go through. That includes short-term memory issues, trouble concentrating and needing more time to understand and follow directions.

“We’re doing this for the police officers to get a better understanding for the brain injury community,” Pepiton said.

Sabrina Taylor, a member of the Phoenix Police Department’s crisis intervention squad, said hearing from Pepiton and others with traumatic brain injuries helps officers develop empathy.

She added that officers also learn what types of events can cause a traumatic brain injury and some of the symptoms they may see.

“People who have a traumatic brain injury often suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and physical disabilities,” Taylor said. “They could also look cognitively normal but have this impairment that surprises people.”

So far, about 170 new Phoenix officers have gone through the program.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

The Kaibab National Forest will implement Stage 2 fire restrictions beginning on Friday....

Kaibab National Forest to begin Stage 2 fire restrictions on Friday

The Kaibab National Forest will implement Stage 2 fire restrictions beginning on Friday.

3 hours ago

A motorcyclist died as a result of a three-car crash in Peoria on June 17, 2024. (AP File Photo/Mat...

Motorcyclist dead after 3-car crash in Peoria

A motorcyclist died as a result of a three-car crash in Peoria on Monday afternoon, authorities said.

4 hours ago

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed the 2025 fiscal year budget on June 18, 2024. (Photo by Rebecca Nob...

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signs $16.1 billion budget for 2025 fiscal year

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed the fiscal year 2025 budget Tuesday that erases a $1.4 billion shortfall by curbing spending on higher education and more.

6 hours ago

Republican Cochise County Supervisors Tom Crosby, left, and Peggy Judd, right, face election interf...

Judge rules election interference cases to continue for 2 Arizona county officials

A Maricopa County judge denied motions Tuesday by two Arizona county officials to dismiss their cases on potential election interference from 2022.

9 hours ago

Bash & Pop performs during the last Viva PHX in 2017. The downtown Phoenix music festival is return...

Kevin Stone

Viva PHX, a multivenue music festival in downtown Phoenix, returning after 7-year hiatus

Viva PHX, a multivenue downtown Phoenix music festival, is rising from the ashes in 2024 after a seven-year hiatus.

10 hours ago

File photos of lawyers Boris Epshteyn, left, and Jenna Ellis, who entered not guilty pleas in Arizo...

Associated Press

Last 3 defendants — Epshteyn, Ellis, Lamon — enter pleas in Arizona’s fake elector case

After the last three arraignments on Tuesday, all 18 defendants in the Arizona fake elector case have now pleaded not guilty.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Phoenix Police officers get training about traumatic brain injuries