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.