CIT in Illinois
First a short history of CIT as we know it. In 1988 a man who had a serious mental illness in Memphis, Tennessee was shot and killed by police during a call for service. Afterward, when police looked back at what happened and why they determined the police shooting was justified under the circumstances but that had police received more training in working with people who had a mental illness a different outcome would have been expected. That case was the start of CIT in Memphis. Subsequent to that incident Tennessee and other states began to implement CIT training in response to hearing about what happened in Memphis or, more often, because of similar cases elsewhere.
Pivotal Event in Illinois
CIT was not what happened in Illinois in the 1990s, and around 2000 various incidents with police transpired in Illinois but none rose to the level of pressing training need until the Illinois State Police standoff in Roby, Illinois. While I don’t remember the details of that case I do recall that a woman who was believed by those she knew to need treatment was to have been served with a court order for evaluation but she refused to answer her door. I understand that police were unsure what to do since she wouldn’t answer her door but hadn’t committed any crime and that resulted in a forty-eight day standoff. I recall that ultimately Illinois State Police forced their way into her home and took her into custody to receive the ordered evaluation. I have been told that Roby was the pivotal event that caused Illinois to develop a statewide CIT response.
Training Begins in Illinois
In Illinois there is a central authority responsible for statewide law enforcement training and standards which places the state in an enviable position by other states. That authority has been in place for fifty-one years and it is because of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB) the state is able to develop, fund, and deliver uniform training and policies statewide, and CIT certainly benefits accordingly. The first Illinois CIT class was conducted by Shelley Daunis, a contractor of ILETSB, in Springfield in 2003; subsequently Ms. Daunis delivered the next training classes in Madison County because SILEC, our area’s regional police training agency, saw CIT as a very needed addition to police officers’ available “toolkit.”
During the early years, while Ms. Daunis was doing CIT training around the state, SILEC sought and received state funding to train as many officers as possible. Within the first two weeks after the first Madison County class an Alton CIT officer, (Detective Mike Metzler) convinced a person not to jump off of the Clark Bridge and that success cemented CIT in the minds of many chiefs and sheriffs in Madison County. Within the first two weeks after the first Madison County class an Alton CIT officer convinced a person not to jump off of the Clark Bridge and that success cemented CIT in the minds of many chiefs and sheriffs in Madison County.
In 2004 SILEC asked me to help organize the mental health provider community to become part of the CIT training team and I gladly accepted; by 2005 demand for CIT training in our area was such that I was engaged on a regular basis to help Ms. Daunis with classes.We did multiple CIT classes in the seven county region starting in 2004 which is how we’ve gotten more than 600 CIT officers trained in our area. In 2007 Ms. Daunis abruptly left the CIT program and I was asked if I would take over running the State’s CIT marketing, development, and training. I said I would with the understanding that this had become too big of a role for one person to handle statewide and that I’d focus on getting training done AND on recruiting and mentoring peers to also deliver CIT training. From 2007 I built a team of very competent advocates and professionals to advance CIT training to stronger and stronger levels.
During that same period as NAMI SWI advanced its mission and professionalism it became a key partner in CIT classes around our area – we (NAMI and I) worked diligently to build the kind of participation that would enable officers to interact with our many people who, and whose families experienced serious mental illness, for the benefit of all concerned. While I’m a bit biased on this issue I think we have the best NAMI buy-in with CIT of anywhere in Illinois.
Mark Benson joins the CIT Team
In 2008 I got John FS Williams to become a peer, as well as CIT officer Andy Feller, and in 2010 Mark Benson joined our team. My intent all along was that we would develop a close-knit professional training delivery team which would, in time, take my place in CIT training for the future. We are at that juncture – John has responsibility for everything north of Interstate 80, Mark has the rest of Illinois, Andy manages the all important role play training function, and we all interchange roles as we must to help one another get all of the training done. Mark has had central Illinois since 2013 and in 2016 he picked up our area and far southern Illinois completing my transfer to him.
Here’s a bit about Mark Benson – born and raised in Marinette, Wisconsin, B.A. in psychology from University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, M.S. in counseling education from Illinois State University, 19 years at Human Services in McLean County, 10 years in the student counseling program at Illinois Wesleyan University, jail counselor for 18 years, private practice 5.5 years, and 5 years working with the drug and mental health courts. Needless to say most of these jobs have been worked simultaneously. Mark is married to Jill, has three children, and lives in Bloomington. He has been very innovative in his facilitation of CIT classes and I know you will love working with him. Mark is passionate about CIT and helping people who have serious mental illnesses. I will remain involved in CIT in other capacities which could include filling in for Mark if there were some conflict in his schedule.
NAMI member and CIT Project Leader