Inside SJPD Crisis Intervention Team - law enforcement with insight and Empathy

A person behaves erratically in public, endangering himself and others. A San Jose Police Department (SJPD) officer, who has taken Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, recognizes the person's symptoms and asks, "Sir, what prescriptions are you taking right now?" The person names a few drugs. Based on the list of medications, the officer understands what ails the person and adapts his or her approach accordingly.

CIT training instructs officers in how to interact with people in the mental health community. The goal is for officers to recognize symptoms (not to diagnose people), to know how to deal with individuals suffering from mental illness and to appropriately de-escalate the crisis. The CIT officers also offer referrals to services which reroutes persons in the mental heath community from the criminal justice system to the mental health system.

Although approximately three hundred SJPD officers already went through CIT training by spring 2016, Chief of Police Eddie Garcia mandated that all SJPD officers must go through CIT certification. In addition, Community Service Officers (CSO), radio dispatchers and 911 call takers can also take CIT training. "We've also trained people from the Crime Prevention unit and Data Specialists because they deal with the public, too," states Sergeant Vanessa Payne, Manager of the SJPD Crisis Management Unit.

"CIT has been at SJPD since 1998. We're one of the first to bring CIT to the West Coast. Our CIT instructors are professionals (doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists) who teach officers how to help individuals when they are in crisis." — Sergeant Vanessa Payne, Crisis Management Unit Supervisor
"CIT training definitely made me more empathetic towards people, especially the homeless. After I went through training, I realized that homelessness wasn't just a temporary condition for many people, but the way they lived for the rest of their lives." — CSO Officer Chuck Hill, received CIT training as an officer in Memphis and as a CSO at SJPD

CIT training is a forty-hour course spread over four days. Mental health professionals (doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists) are brought teach the officers about different illnesses and how to deal with people having a mental crisis. Nineteen areas are covered, including bi-polar disorders, intellectual disabilities (Alzheimer's, dementia), autism and excited delirium (a medical condition that resembles mental illness). The de-escalation techniques that CIT officers learn can also be applied in other crisis situations, such as domestic violence, suicide attempts and events involving irate individuals.

CIT started in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1987, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) saw the need for police officers to be trained in dealing with uncontrollable people suffering from mental illness. They partnered with the Memphis Police Department and other agencies in the mental heath community. By the following year, the organizing and training of a specialized unit resulted in the Memphis Police Department's Crisis Intervention Team—dedicated to using a more intelligent, coherent and safe approach to handling mental crisis events.

At SJPD, CIT training is under the auspices of the Crisis Management unit, supervised by Sergeant Vanessa Payne. In addition to managing the CIT training, Sergeant Payne also runs the following related programs:

  • Peer Support Team — Officers, who have been through challenging life experiences, are trained to recognize when a fellow officer is in crisis and to help the officer "walk through" the situation.
  • Critical Incident Stress Debriefing — SJPD officers and personnel directly impacted by a traumatic event meet with members of the Peer Support Team and a therapist who will run the debriefing. The purpose is to identify individuals who are struggling, follow up with them and provide information on how traumatic incidents can affect them. The SJPD has found that the incidents of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are greatly reduced by debriefing.
  • Referral Program — The Crisis Management unit offers referrals to officers. These therapists understand police culture and cover a wide range of expertise in both work-related and personal issues.
Sergeant Vanessa Payne supervises the Crisis Management unit at SJPD. She regularly meets with community groups and organizations such as the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Santa Clara County Mental Health Department.

CIT training is not meant to make officers mental health experts. But, it does teach officers to recognize symptoms of mental illness and to apply de-escalation techniques. It reduces the chance of using force in encounters with out-of-control people suffering from mental illness.

Want to be a member of SJPD? Visit www.SJPDYou.com.

Created By

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.