Metro Police are continuing to expand their efforts to help the mentally ill during high-stress situations. Metro’s Crisis Intervention Team started in 2003, but it’s not just a team anymore. The Crisis Intervention Team has turned into the entire department.
CIT officers are the first called out to a scene, to protect the mentally ill.
“The ability to de-escalate the situation is invaluable,” said Officer Patrick Burke, Metro Training Academy, and CIT Detail.
According to Burke, all new officers are required to get CIT certified, so they react appropriately.
“They’ll respond to that, and through their training and experience, they can communicate and have a little bit more empathy with the individuals and members of the community,” Officer Burke said.
That empathy is critical when trying to help those who feel helpless.
“Nobody asked for a mental illness, so we as an agency has to be proactive and put forth the training and give the officers the tools best necessary to help the community,” said Officer Burke.
The training is a 40-hour, scenario-based class where officers learn how to identify people dealing with mental disorders.
“I think the training kind of kicks into gear for them, and it puts them at ease, and it helps the person calm down,” said Dana DiPalma, Metro’s CIT coordinator.
Dipalma says the program that was once a set group of officers in 2003 continues to grow. It’s now a department-wide effort with 77 percent of all Metro Police officers certified in Crisis intervention.
Police say they’re handling tenser situations, and as times change the officers adapt, to help as many people as possible.
“We definitely try to keep up with the trends, so right now, we added in our initial class, an autism portion that’s very well received,” said DiPalma.
All officers who complete the training have to wear a CIT pin as a sign that help has arrived.
“That officer’s had the training and will be able to empathize with them a little bit,” Officer Burke said.
CIT officers are different than a crisis negotiation team. The negotiators are called out if people do not respond well to the CIT officers and there is a larger, more serious threat.