Six Mustang Police Department officers participated in Crisis Intervention Team training Monday.
The Crisis Intervention Team, which is a program a part of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, offers 40-hour training over a span of five days to officers.
Several years ago, the department took a poll over a few months and found that about 30% of their calls were mental health-related, Deputy Chief Mike Wallace said. He expects that percentage to have increased.
“This training right here is probably one of the most important things you can do,” said Wallace.
He also said the training is especially important to new officers.
One Mustang officer was fairly new, serving with the department for a little over two years. The other Mustang officers have served from 11 to 23 years.
Several of the officers said they were forced to attend the training.
One said the majority of the department has been CIT-certified except for a few new officers. Up until fairly recently, there was not an importance to attend mental health trainings, one of the Mustang officers said.
About 30 officers from across the state signed up for the training, which is from 8:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m. until Friday. Because of COVID-19, the training looked slightly different.
The officers typically get to tour mental health facilities and children’s hospitals in the state.
“I think it’s really important and you need to be able to when you’re transporting somebody to be able to just say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like …, said Tania Woods, law enforcement liaison for ODMHSAS. “It can be helpful.”
However, this week’s training will solely be inside the Mustang Town Center. There are about seven instructors teaching the training throughout the week.
Of the instructors, there is an ODMHSAS representative; several CIT-certified officers and more mental health providers.
“Being able to verbally talk to someone can do far more than raising your voice,” said Sgt. Brittany Mayer with the Grady County Sheriff’s Office, who is one of the instructors.
Many of the officers said their departments have seen a significant increase in mental health cases. Some with the Grady sheriff’s office have seen a rise in children with mental illnesses.
An officer with the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office said he felt empty-handed when responding to mental health calls.
On Monday, Cpl. Ryan Clanton with Minco Police Department provided an overview of the growing partnership between law enforcement and mental health. After a 1987 Memphis case ended in officers killing a person with a knife to prevent him from taking his life, CIT was born.
The man had a history of mental illness.
Regarding Oklahoma mental health laws, Clanton advised the officers to know Title 43A, as many of the attendees were not versed in it.
At least 20 times a day, families request CIT officers in Oklahoma City because they trust them more, Clanton said.
There are 1 in 4 people who have an undiagnosed mental illness. Many of the officers said they are one of those people.
“It’s OK to talk to someone,” said Clanton.
The corporal also told the officers that substance abuse can be a mental illness. He gave the example of responding to someone who is high.
When a person puts drugs above their family members’ safety, it’s a mental health issue, Clanton said.
Officers also experienced a hearing simulation at the end of the day, which allows participants to understand what people who are schizophrenic experience. Some Mustang officers had done the simulation before.
There were also panels of family members who shared their children’s stories to help officers learn more about mental illnesses.
On Tuesday, the officers learned through PowerPoint discussions about identifying psychiatric disorders and determining what the treatment is. Woods said they will also review protective custody and who can be taken in.
On Wednesday, mental health providers with Crisis Intervention; St. Anthony’s; youth services and more spoke to the officers about specialty courts. Woods said there is a 70% success rate in drug courts.
Communication skills were also discussed for officers to be able to talk someone in a mental health emergency down.
“We want to be able to talk people into what we need them to do, not force them,” Woods said.
Children’s issues were presented, as well. Some University of Oklahoma officers said since they deal with many mental health-related calls, one of their department goals is to be CIT-compliant by 2022.
Officers also learned about suicide emergencies and affidavit assignments.
Co-occurring disorders were discussed Thursday for officers to learn about mental illnesses and substance abuse that often coincide.
Regarding officer self-care, Clanton presented the need to take of their own mental health.
In the afternoon Thursday and all-day Friday, officers will participate in scenarios with one of the instructors. The activities are based on real calls officers have received regarding a person in a mental health emergency.
Clanton said it’s crucial for all officers to be CIT-certified.
“The way the times are changing in the world, everyone is demanding accountability, and this is that accountability that we’re able to give them,” he said.
He said many officers are not trained on mental health disorders in the police academy.
Emergency medical services personnel and firefighters can also sign-up to attend CIT. ODMHSAS is putting on 14 classes this year.
In FBI news, Woods said the agency has recently began threat assessments from people with mental illnesses, of which she is helping with. Their goal is to now get people treatment, so the threat will not be reoccurring.