How a police officer first responds to a person in crisis can determine the outcome of an entire situation, including whether someone gets hurt, goes to the hospital or goes to jail. That’s why the NOPD made training new and veteran officers in de-escalation techniques a top priority in 2016.
Watch Video: Inside Crisis Intervention Team Training
The curriculum, known as CIT, or Crisis Intervention Team Training, is built upon best practices on how law enforcement officers should recognize and handle behavior associated with mental disorders. CIT officers receive 40 hours of specialized training from mental health experts focused on techniques and best practices for minimizing the use of force against individuals in crisis due to mental illness or a behavioral disorder. Training includes lectures from mental health experts as well as on-site visitation and exposure to mental health facilities, intensive interaction with individuals with a mental illness and scenario-based de-escalation skills training.
CIT officers are then assigned to each police district to respond to and de-escalate mental health and other crises.
Second District Officer Andrew Wiedman was among the first patrol officers to receive the new training. He said the most important thing he’s learned from the program is empathy.
Wiedman described a situation in the past year where he was called out to a local hospital where a patient was reportedly being aggressive and had struck a nurse in the emergency room. When he arrived at the hospital, Wiedman said he used the skills he learned in CIT to de-escalate the situation and simply talk with the patient. After an hour of listening and talking to the individual, Wiedman said he was able to convince the patient to calmly leave the hospital where he was escorted to a different facility.
“They wanted to charge him with simple battery, but one thing you learn in training is that the behavior that you see is not always criminal,” said Wiedman. “Now, there are times when we’ll have to arrest people, but if we can just defer people from the criminal justice system to the healthcare system, people suffering from mental illnesses are more likely to stay on treatment and those are all positive things for law enforcement and for the city.”
This past fall, the department delivered on a commitment to train at least 20 percent of the patrol officers by August 2016 as part of the federal consent decree. In all, a total of 122 NOPD employees and officers have been certified in CIT since the fall of 2015. And that number will increase in 2017 with the next CIT class set for early 2017.
As the training continues, CIT Coordinator Sergeant Bruce Glaudi said it will continue to evolve. This week, Glaudi will be participating in the Police Executive Research Forum conference in New Orleans where he hopes to develop other ideas for CIT training in the future, including more difficult scenarios for officers and best practices on de-escalation, decision-making and use of force tactics.
All in an effort to equip officers with the tools they need to keep themselves safe and to get help to those who need it.