Training police to respond to situations involving people with developmental disabilities and other behavioral disorders leads to fewer arrests and more treatment referrals, new research suggests.
In a two-part study, researchers looked at use of the crisis intervention team, or CIT, model, a 40-hour program to train police to respond to those with mental health issues. They interviewed 586 officers, 251 of whom had received CIT training, and reviewed more than 1,000 police encounters with individuals believed to have behavioral disorders.
Officers who participated in CIT training were more knowledgable about mental health issues, treatments and de-escalation skills, according to findings published in the April issue of the journal Psychiatric Services.
What’s more, when looking at emergency responses, incidents involving officers with CIT training were more likely to result in transport to mental health services and less likely to culminate in arrest. Researchers found that officers who had participated in training were also much more likely to indicate that the highest level of force used in their emergency response was verbal engagement or negotiation.
A joint effort of the law enforcement and mental health communities, researchers said CIT is currently used in about 2,700 police departments nationwide.
Officer training has been the subject of increased attention in the last year following the 2013 death of Robert Ethan Saylor at the hands of law enforcement. Saylor, who had Down syndrome, was restrained by three off-duty sheriff’s deputies after he refused to leave a Frederick, Md. movie theater and died within minutes.