A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program consists of law enforcement officers who have received intensive specialized training on dealing with individuals in the community who have a mental illness or other behavioral disability.
CIT officers provide an immediate response to calls involving a mental health or other behavioral crisis situation. The goal is for each participating law enforcement agency to have at least one CIT officer available on each shift, but these officers also perform their regular duty assignments. This is not envisioned as a call-out situation since immediacy of response is what makes the program successful along with application of viable interaction techniques. The “team” part of CIT involves law enforcement strategic partnerships with stakeholder agencies, NAMI SWI members, and interagency mutual assistance agreements with other CIT departments. Through mutual assistance CIT departments agree to provide CIT coverage for one another as circumstances may dictate and where a CIT department may not have an available CIT officer on a shift at the time that a situation requiring such expertise is received.
Community members can easily identify CIT officers by a standardized “CIT” pin worn on officers’ uniforms, and CIT officers should further identify themselves as CIT officers when entering a call for service.
CIT officers are also expected to find opportunities to interact with individuals who have disabilities when they are not in a crisis situation. For example, CIT officers may attend community meetings at service agencies, may participate in NAMI meetings or special consumer-focused events, or may do “well-being” checks with individuals with whom they have become familiar. It is expected that CIT departments will build relationships and cultivate partnerships with area stakeholders and NAMI beginning with their CIT training, and continuing over time.
Specially trained patrol officers provide these services to individuals with mental illness and their families in times of crisis – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because law enforcement officers are generally the first ones called to work with a consumer in crisis, it is imperative that the officer understand issues that the consumer may be experiencing as a result of his/her mental illness. CIT training consists of a one-week, 40-hour block of state-certified instruction.
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- Crisis response is immediate
- Underserved consumers are identified by officers and provided with care
- Officers are better trained and educated in verbal de-escalation techniques
- Officer recognition and appreciation by the community increases
- Less “victimless” crime arrests
- Repeat calls decrease
- Involuntary hospitalizations decrease while voluntary hospitalizations increase when beds are available
- Likelihood of injury decreases for all involved
- Cost savings
In the last twenty-plus years, researchers around the country have studied law enforcement agencies with CIT programs. Several statistically significant findings have been noted. Researchers at The University of Tennessee, in studying the Memphis Police Department where CIT originated, have observed:
- Officer injury decreased
- Arrest rates decreased for people who have mental illnesses
- Use of force decreased
- Violence and use of restraints decreased in hospital emergency departments
- Rate of mental illness in county jails and municipal lockups decreased until funding for community and state hospital beds were reduced by cash-strapped governments
- Liability for health care issues consequently decreased in jails/lockups in CIT departments until hospital beds decreased as above