Aurora police

Crisis Intervention Teams Change the Way Police Respond to Some Calls

CIT is considered by law enforcement experts to be the gold standard training on how to deal with mental health crises

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Aurora police officers used special training and teamwork to help defuse a mental health crisis situation Wednesday after someone threatened to commit suicide in the parking lot of a shopping area.

Dispatchers immediately sent Crisis Intervention Team officers and negotiators who talked to the person. Police said the person voluntarily went to the hospital.

“First starting texting and then calls to the gentlemen to help assure him that somebody’s here that wants to help,” said Det. Douglas Rashkow of the Aurora Police Department.

Most officers in Illinois receive several hours of training on dealing with mental health emergencies. But others complete a 40-hour CIT course and take that knowledge back to their respective departments and communities.

CIT training is considered by law enforcement experts to be the gold standard training on how to deal with individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis. It can also help peacefully resolve mental health crises.

“In CIT, we work very heavily on active listening skills and building empathy for those that are inflicted with mental illness or developmental disabilities,” Rashkow said.

The Aurora Police Department said it currently has 30 CIT trained officers and a team of negotiators.

In 2018, NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo Chicago surveyed more than 300 Chicago area law enforcement agencies to find out which have CIT-trained officers. Of the agencies that responded, most said they have at least one CIT- trained officer.

As of 2018, the Chicago Police Department had more than 2,600 CIT-trained officers and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department had more than 500 CIT-trained officers.

This week, the Village of Orland Park announced the formation of its Mobile Crisis Response Unit to ensure “that the mental health needs of all residents are met.”

According to the village, a mental health crisis worker will respond alongside public safety personnel to crises involving people experiencing mental illness and substance abuse problems.

“When the mental health response unit is activated, law enforcement will play a supporting role instead of the primary role,” said Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has impacted the number of officers who can take part in CIT training. Rashkow said the goal is to resume the training for more police officers when it is safe to continue.

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