SAN ANTONIO – There was a standing ovation for the men and women in blue on Tuesday night.
"It's very humbling. We show up and do our duty every day without that expectation," said Officer William Kasberg.
He is one of several officers who are part of the San Antonio Police Department Mental Health Detail. They were recognized with the Spirit of Health Award on Tuesday, which is handed out for six years now by the Baptist Health Foundation.
"We identify a person with mental illness. We respond and slow everything down and explain to them that we're there to serve them, that they're not in trouble," Kasber said.
Spectrum News first introduced you to this team back in 2014. Back then six officers made up the group, and were all working in plain clothes and an unmarked vehicle to respond to hundreds of calls.
Before this detail was created, persons having a mental health crisis could have ended up in jail or shot to death. This team changed that.
"They talk to them about what their problem is instead of putting handcuffs on them. So they're improving the health of our community," said Cody Knowlton, president and CEO of the Baptist Health Foundation. The foundation awards grants to nonprofits that make a positive impact in public health. They also recognize groups like SAPD for their efforts in the same mission.
The SAPD Mental Health detail now includes ten officers and one supervisor. Cities across the country are taking note and are modeling their own programs after San Antonio.
"Chief McManus has established that 100 percent of his officers shall be trained in mental illness de-escalation techniques," said Kasberg.
The SAPD Mental Health detail is just one component of a city and county-wide effort to help people with chronic mental illness. The results so far have proven positive; it's helping keep the jail population under control, getting people to treatment and changing lives.
"We are the first liaison to getting them into that initial help. That first step on that ladder to a better lifestyle," said Kasberg.
For these officers, serving the community means serving every person in it.