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Crisis Training Pays Big Dividends, Study Finds


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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.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. Dadvocate says:

    Training works (though perfection is impossible). Reach out to your local unit (respectfully) and ask if they’ve received CIT or similar training. If not show them the article. I think most law enforcement and first response professionals, especially senior level, will be very responsive.

    The troubling aspect of this great info is that most parents and caregivers are prevented from accessing CIT training unless they are employed by a first response unit or other established provider organization (school district, hospital, etc) I’ve been told it’s all about potential training company liability but there ought to be a parent/guardian/caregiver shield to protect the trainers from legal risk so they can train “regular folks” if they want and need it.. That’s really important for many who may be dealing with more than just “challenging” behaviors.

  2. Peia says:

    I’d like to request that you give a reference when citing published research so that we can easily find it. The link you’ve added just goes to the journal. In order to actually see the article first hand, it would be incredibly helpful if you also included the title of the article at the very least. Ideally you’d be giving the names of the authors, the journal name and volume and issue number as well.

  3. Peia says:

    OK I’ve located it. In this instance, it would be helpful to include an in-text citation such as “The research by Compton et al, titled “The Police-Based Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Model”, is reported in two parts in the journal Psychiatric Services (vol. 65, No. 4), and demonstrates that X and Y”

  4. Peia says:

    Oh, the research makes absolutely no mention of people with a disability, let alone people with an intellectual or other developmental disability. It’s just around people with a mental illness. Hopefully the training would generalise, but it’s a long bow to draw and certainly not a suggestion of this research. The same research is really needed focusing on communicating with people with an intellectual disability specifically, this would have made a different in Mr Saylor’s case.

  5. Dennis Burgess says:

    The training should also include an emphasis on how to communicate with people who have significant speech impairments. Once when I was trying to buy a soft drink at a local restaurant someone called the police because they thought I was lost. This embarrassing situation finally turned out alright but it took a long time to convince the police that I had Cerebral palsy.

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