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Celebrating 28 Years of CIT

                    July 2015
July Contents

Next Conference Chicago April 24-27 2016 Chicago IL

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A Message from the President - Michael S. Woody


Last month I was invited by  The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to attend a meeting titled: Re-Engineering Police Use of Force being held in Washington, D.C.  There were close to 300 police executives in attendance, which I was told was the largest turnout ever for these events.   I most likely was added as a suggestion of Laura Usher from NAMI National as she was asked to attend in order to answer questions about CIT.


This 1-day event had Inspectors, Chiefs, FBI personnel, Professors, Researchers, Directors, Program Managers, Attorney General's staff, Attorneys, Dept. of Justice staff, Commissioners, NCIS, Scientists, DEA, Secret Service, Consultants, various law enforcement agencies from the U.S. and Canada, Scotland, and England. 


The day started off with a Welcome from Chuck Wexler, Executive Director of PERF and several others. Then the agenda began with "State of the Field: Review of Recent Events and PERF Survey Findings on Use of Force Training."  I found it interesting but not surprising that surveys showed that most Use of Force Training in academies and In-Service Trainings are conducted by SWAT Team members.  There was a lengthy discussion on police officers and agencies branding themselves as warriors, instead of guardians.  A recruitment video that was appeared to be quite disturbing to everyone glamorized the military-like attitude of the department, SWAT Team, automatic weapons, military equipment and the action one was likely to see if they joined up was shown!


Watching that video I could not help but wonder if they had advertised in such dramatic fashion their CIT Program, School Resource Officer Program, Community Outreach Program, Shop With a Cop Program and other community outreach initiatives. Would the recruitment pool have looked different than the tactical one used above?  You better believe it!


Next on the Agenda was - "Challenging Conventional Thinking: Officer Safety/Tactics, De-escalation, Edged Weapons, Foot Pursuit, Mental Health Crisis and Warrior vs. Guardian."  This section is where NAMI's Laura Usher and I became the go-to people for the moderator (Check Wexler).  One law enforcement agency proudly  touted their CIT initiative as a train-all-officers approach.  Obviously, Mr. Wexler had read up on the Core Elements of a CIT Program, and asked me to comment. I tried to be as tactful as possible when I explained CIT as more than just training!  CIT as a Program!  Special officers for special people!  The lasting partnership that is needed and desired between law enforcement, mental health providers and advocates/consumers to make it last through the test of time.


Amazingly, for the most part, those in attendance understood that, and seemed to agree.


With recent law enforcement events/actions around our country, CIT has become quite a much-discussed subject.  The rush to give all officers the 40-hour course by legislators, mayors and chief's/sheriff's and... even fund it, is quite amazing. But, I do not see them educating themselves on what a CIT Program is!  They want all officers to go through the course - and they want it to happen quickly.  I know that in my county we offer the course twice per year.  We have 8 M.D.s and 4 Ph.D.s that volunteer their time as well as consumers, advocates, and a host of others.  All are there on a volunteer basis. No one gets paid and the officers in the class know this.  It makes a huge difference to the officers, as they know the community must really care about this.  Now, do you think these volunteer, free instructors are going to want to train all the officers in a community even if the officer does not want the training?  That twice per year course is going to have to be conducted much more often.  Is it right for law enforcement to ask for this? And, what happens when the community can no longer offer their services this often?  Does the law enforcement agency have a couple of CIT officers teach the whole 40-hours? (I have heard of this happening).  What does that do for the quality of the program?


The moderator (Wexler) went into a discussion on officers being quick to shoot persons with edged weapons they encounter nowadays.  The 21' rule was discussed, and the officers from Scotland and England talked about why they do not carry guns and yet run into a lot of people with edged weapons.  They handle the situation through de-escalating the person in crisis.  Not a single officer has been killed in a number of years by someone with an edged weapon nor have they had to kill the person with the edged weapon.  Of course, no one in Europe has a gun for the most part and if the person will not drop the knife there is a group of back-up officers carrying shields that march toward him/her and safely take them into custody.

Mr. Wexler asked me if I knew how often mentally ill persons had a weapon when the CIT officer is called to the scene.  I told the audience it was not often.  He asked me if CIT officers saw edged weapons more than they saw guns.  I told him it was much more likely to see an edged weapon on a mental illness crisis call.


On the break a few of the attendees approached me asking about CIT and our Core Elements document.  I answered all their questions and invited them to learn more by going to our website or the Memphis website.  I also took the opportunity to invite them to our 2016 Spring CIT International Conference in Chicago.



Lt. Michael Woody (ret)

President - CIT International Inc.



The officers who talk people off a ledge

Sergeant Sally Panzer with the St. Louis Metro Police Dept. makes a living talking people out of dying. 
St. Louis PD
Sgt. Sally Panzer

ST LOUIS- In a year when police departments all over the country spent countless hours examining ways to improve relationships between officers and the communities they serve, Sgt. Sally Panzer with the St. Louis Metro Police Dept. racked up awards and commendations for performing some of the most dangerous, and delicate, police work an officer can encounter.


Sgt. Panzer is on the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), the squad that takes the call when someone's threatening to jump off a high-rise balcony or a bridge.

Sgt. Panzer has been on the CIT since 2004 and can't begin to estimate how many people she's literally walked back from the brink of suicide.

But, it's a lot...  

To read and view video see: 


The Justice Center
From Solitary to the Street

By Christie Thompson


By the time he had served five years for armed robbery, Mark had lost 80 pounds. He had developed a new tic - tightly closing his eyes, as if blinking back bad thoughts. But the biggest change, his mother said, was in his face. It had hardened. A deep crease ran along the bridge of his nose.


When Mark, who had just turned 21, walked out of a maximum-security prison in Huntsville, Texas, last July, he had spent the last two-and-a-half years in solitary confinement. Prison officials sent him to segregation when he was 18 for allegedly threatening to run away.

For roughly 30 months, he was locked in a 60-square-foot steel-and-concrete cell for 23 hours a day with little human contact, except a guard's gloved hand passing food through a slot in the door. When his mother, Sara Garcia, drove six hours from Austin to visit him, she was separated from her son by plexiglass. (Mark and his family spoke on the condition that he be identified by his first name only, for fear that he could face retribution from guards.)


Read all of Mark's story


NBC 4 Washington

Hearing Voices: Police Train for Calls Involving Schizophrenia 


Fairfax County VA

Twenty Fairfax County police officers are "hearing voices" this week as they begin special crisis intervention training. In their first session they put in earbuds and were hit with the same kind of constant haunting, negative chatter that might flood into the brain of someone with schizophrenia.


"This is not an easy session," warned Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training coordinator Tom von Hemert. "I've had some officers feel nauseous or gotten headaches and said, 'I can't do it. '"

For 45 minutes as the "voices" continue to stream into their heads, they are asked by von Hemert Team instructor to do routine tasks, filling out paperwork, solving a word scramble, reading a story and answering questions.


"This is not an easy session," warned Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training coordinator Tom von Hemert. 

"I've had some officers feel nauseous or gotten headaches and said, 'I can't do it. '"


For 45 minutes as the "voices" continue to stream into their heads, they are asked by von Hemert Team instructor to do routine tasks, filling out paperwork, solving a word scramble, reading a story and answering questions.


What should be simple becomes hard. Von Hemert quizzes them.

"I put graphics", replied one officer to a question.  "You put wrong," snapped von Hemert.


The ridicule is meant to mimic the kind of treatment someone in a mental health crisis might get. After the "voices" stop, the instructor gets some reactions.


"I could almost see myself doing anything to make that stop, anything," said Mt. Vernon District Officer Eric Becker.

"I felt physically exhausted from this exercise. My heart is stil pounding. My hands are still clammy. I'm beat," said Master Police Officer Eddy Azcarate.

Full Story and accompanying news video at!/news/local/Hearing-Voices:-Police-Train-for-Calls-Involving-Schizophrenia/306565271

Changing the way police respond to mental illness

By Liza Lucas, Special to CNN

Story highlights:

  • Washington Post: One-fourth of U.S. police shooting deaths in first half of 2015 involved people in mental or emotional crises
  • Crisis intervention teams were designed to change police response to mental illness
  • There are about 2,800 CIT programs in the United States
CNN  At 18, Keith Vidal was a normal teenager, his mom said -- a good kid and funny guy who liked basketball, played the drums and enjoyed the beach.

But in 2012, his parents thought he was going through something more than "normal teenage stuff." He became withdrawn, paranoid and disconnected. In 2013, he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, his mother said, which is characterized by a combination of schizophrenia symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, as well as mood disorder symptoms, such as depression. Antipsychotic medications helped control his symptoms but often needed adjustment.

On January 5, 2014, Vidal's mother said, her son was having a particularly bad day. He wasn't acting violently, but "it didn't seem like Keith was in reality," Mary Wilsey said. He refused to go to the hospital for an evaluation, so his family called 911 for help.

"Let me stress the 'help' part," Wilsey said. "This was a call for help."

Details of the incident vary among reports, but Vidal's stepfather told a 911 dispatcher that Vidal was armed with a screwdriver and wanted "to fight his mother." Police responded to the family's home in Brunswick County, North Carolina. Law enforcement from three different agencies arrived, and Vidal was shot...


Crisis intervention team training, known as CIT, is one program for law enforcement and local communities to better respond to people experiencing mental health crises. 

"A big chunk of the training is verbal de-escalation skills," said Laura Usher, a CIT program team manager at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She said officers practice skills with scenario-based role playing.  


Visit the University of Memphis CIT Center website to find a step-by-step guide to forming a CIT in your community. 

Be informed
Browse Recent News Articles on CIT & Related topics gathered from June 2015 media at:  


This link leads to a collection of related news items from the June 2015 news media.

Dept of Justice Investigative Reports of police organizations 

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