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Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is a program aimed at reducing the risk of death or severe injury when law enforcers interact with mentally ill individuals during emergencies. The program has been adopted in various settings, both nationally and globally. The need for CIT was highlighted by an incident where police officers killed twenty-seven-year-old Dewayne Robinson due to a lack of appropriate skills to handle a mentally ill person.
CIT program training can involve sworn officers who they serve as first responders to emergencies and work closely with community mental health institutions. Also, the program may involve non-sworn police department personnel conversant with Psychiatry to support sworn officers in the field either remotely or on-site. Also, the law enforcement department may coordinate with independent mental health personnel and organizations to respond to emergencies.
The potential outcomes of CIT programs include facilitating the effective diversion of people with mental health problems from jail into proper psychiatric facilities and addressing the stigma and negative stereotypes often associated with mental health problems. Another possible outcome is those police officers that undergo the CIT training program can be equipped to fulfill their duties more calmly and humanely. Finally, CIT can improve officer safety, allowing them to focus primarily on crime which is a cost-effective utilization of resources.
The major challenge in implementing CIT is that the overlapping and fragmented United States policing system makes it difficult to monitor the program. Even though individual states have the police power, most law enforcers operate within local departments without the capacity to provide the required resources. Fifty percent of agencies have less than ten officers, and about seventy-five percent of them have less than twenty-five officers. There have been concerns over challenges faced in offering training and resources for these departments. Other difficulties arise from local municipal restrictions that inhibit collaborations across cities. A small department struggles to deploy or consistently operate according to CIT principles.
There are several ways in which programs similar to CIT can be effectively implemented. First, criminal justice personnel must accommodate mental illness professionals. Challenges are bound to emerge whenever people with different professional backgrounds and cultures are supposed to work together. Therefore, there needs to be a framework to guide the different professionals to tolerate and understand each other’s perspectives. Also, it is crucial to engage all the involved parties to bring a sense of shared goals. This engagement should be both at the staff level and at the system level. All the involved agencies need to understand how they benefit from the intervention. For instance, clarifying that police officers will have easier work when they learn how to handle mentally ill individuals motivates them to come on board. Also, both criminal justice and mental health professionals should conduct independent assessments from their perspectives. This practice can allow both agencies to understand challenges outside their scope. Therefore, even though the primary goal of mental health professionals is addressing people with psychiatric needs, they need to consider other factors that may make law enforcers’ participation difficult.