As a crisis intervention team (CIT) trainer and coordinator, I’m often asked my thoughts about who should be CIT trained. Some people say CIT is a specialty and officers should want to volunteer to be a CIT officer rather than be voluntold. Many politicians and community members demand that every cop be trained, at every agency, in every state, no exceptions. So what should your agency do? That is going to depend on several factors, the first of which is the size of your agency. If you have a large agency, logistically and realistically, you will not be able to train everyone. In this case, you should consider training 20% to 25% of your patrol division.Dupont R., Cochran S., Pillsbury S. “Crisis Intervention Team Core Elements.” The University of Memphis School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, Dept. of Criminology and Criminal Justice, CIT … Continue reading
Depending on your response time, the size of your city, the demographics and the overall need for mental health services, you may need to push this training a bit higher to 30% to 35%, especially as retirements and lateral jumps have hit many large agencies hard in the last three years. For the midsize agencies or very large urban agencies, the number trained may need to be around 50% or more. For those officers in very small agencies, you may need to train at least 75%, if not all, officers to ensure full coverage, especially when backup is limited and the responding officer may be the only one on scene for quite some time. No matter what the size of your agency is, your goal should be to have CIT-trained officers available for every shift.
You want mature officers who have spent some time on the street attending CIT training, not new officers fresh out of the academy.
So should you be looking for volunteers or simply selecting people to go to CIT? Ideally, you want officers volunteering for the 40-hour training rather than being voluntold or forced to attend training. Remember, CIT emphasizes de-escalating crisis situations and is a voluntary specialty training like K-9 and SWAT. You want mature officers who have spent some time on the street attending CIT training, not new officers fresh out of the academy. From a return-on-investment perspective, your newest officers may not make it through their probationary period, or they quit, and you now have lost a significant investment. A good rule of thumb is for officers to have at least a couple of years on the street before attending CIT training to maximize the investment of sending them through CIT training in the first place. Remember, not everyone is cut out for CIT.
We want individuals willing and able to utilize the skills learned in CIT on the street effectively and safely. Those forced to attend CIT may not take the class seriously, may be disinterested, may sour the class and ultimately not replicate the training on the street. And while they may get CIT certification, the bigger concern is that these individuals may pose a potential liability for the department by potentially failing to properly utilize the skills, especially if they were not invested in the training during class.
The last thing you want is to create a more complicated situation during a crisis call since the point of CIT is to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved. While I often have officers who have volunteered and those who have been voluntold to attend CIT, most of the time, I have been fortunate to have very interested and engaged officers.
The handful who had an attitude or misconceptions on day one have usually come around by day three. For the reasons stated above, if your agency is getting pressure to train everyone
on CIT, take a step back and consider which officers are interested in CIT, have the personal motivation to be trained on this specialty and the right mindset to be CIT trained.
The ideal CIT officer will utilize time and distance, de-escalation skills, patience, self-awareness, compassion, be a problem solver, will be self-motivated, and will have a high level of independence and want to work with those having a mental health crisis.
I recommend agencies encourage officers to take CIT but also stress the importance of attending CIT with an open mind, be willing and open to looking at additional options for people in crisis, and understand that this training is not looking to change who they are but have alternative ways of thinking about those in crisis in your community.
Until next time, stay safe.
As seen in the September 2023 issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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