#24: CITs are Changing the Way Police Confront Mental Illness


We see it over and over: police officers confront a person in the throes of mental illness. Some of these people may be dangerous; most are not violent, but they are confused, disturbed, and not acting rationally. Police officers are trained for a different job: detecting and preventing crime and disorder, and too often, things go terribly wrong, resulting in violence and even the death of a person with a mental illness. 

There’s a new way to deal with this chronic problem: training for police officers using the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) approach. CIT training helps police officers understand and recognize the symptoms of mental illness, and it gives them tools to defuse and deescalate situations with mentally ill persons so they can be stabilized and they and the public can be safe.

Master Police Officer Patricia Poloka of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police teaches the model in Pittsburgh.

The Washington Post found in August 2016 that 20 percent of Baltimore's use of force incidents included persons with mental illness, even when they posed no threat.

The CIT approach was founded at the University of Memphis and piloted by the Memphis Police Department. Read their research here

PBS did a deep dive on the model in 2015. Check it out here.