Crisis training a plus for law enforcementPublished 10:17pm Monday, February 18, 2013
The best way to defuse a situation is to know the signs of crisis and respond accordingly. That’s why Deputy Nathan Drake attended 40 hours’ worth of specialized training recently: to become the newest Crisis Intervention Team deputy at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
Drake received the voluntary certification Friday, becoming the third trained county officer on staff armed with the ability, as first responders, to recognize signs and symptoms of various mental disorders and be able to react with not only the correct protocol, but with compassion and understanding. The specialized training covered such topics as substance abuse, suicide intervention, autism and posttraumatic stress disorder, as well an overview of mental health.
Sgt. Jeremy Hewitt, who received CIT certification in 2007, said he often employs the tools he learned in training.
“Suicidal people, involuntary commitments, intoxicated subjects … I think I use (CIT skills) on a daily basis because it’s not just about the mentally ill. It’s any crisis situation,” Hewitt said. “The techniques are essentially for de-escalating symptoms in a crisis.”
Hewitt said the process takes a different approach to the traditional “cop mentality,” instead using a more person-to-person method that doesn’t simply end when the immediate crisis is over, but facilitates the process of getting people the help they need.
“(We’re) encouraged to spend the time it takes to fix the problem and, hopefully, prevent future encounters due to the same circumstances,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt said the proven benefits of such an approach are a smaller number of use-of-force incidents for trained officers and a decreased risk of injury to all parties involved.
As of January 2011, there were 3,032 CIT certified law-enforcement officers in North Carolina, with 222 law-enforcement agencies participating in the program, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office.
Drake, Hewitt, and Cpl. Thomas Salinas might be the only CIT-trained officers on staff, but Hewitt hopes for more.
“Ideally, we’d like to have one (CIT deputy) on every shift, and that’s what we’re striving for,” Hewitt said. “So that anytime we have a call with someone who has some type of crisis or mental illness, we’ll have that person available to respond to the situation.”