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CIT-trained officers use less use of force when responding to calls for service

No officers from HC trained in CIT provided reports in April, May

Law enforcement in Henry County are seeing a difference because of Crisis Intervention Team training.

A deputy with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office was trying to a place a man under arrest last week when he was “belligerent and out of control,” Sheriff Rich McNamee said.

McNamee said his deputy talked him down, arrested him peacefully and got him into jail with the help of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. A couple of hours later, the detainee broke a light fixture and turned the debris into weapons. McNamee said the detainee only injured himself and he was able to talk the detainee down once again.

When the dust settled, a senior jailer asked McNamee how he managed to talk the detainee down a second time without anyone else getting injured.

“You talk to him like a human being. That’s what you learn in CIT,” McNamee said.

McNamee said he is planning on having more deputies trained in CIT in the future.

Alan Brady, jail diversion coordinator for Southeast Iowa Link, said the reports he is seeing from CIT trained officers stem more from mental illness than substance abuse, although substance abuse is coming into play.

“There’s less force used with CIT trained officers and the situations where people aren’t getting arrested and they are getting the help they need,” Brady said during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, June 6.

In April and May, there were 36 reports made from CIT trained officers in Des Moines, Lee, Washington and Keokuk counties. While there are some CIT trained officers in Henry County, Brady said there were no reports made from them.

“I haven’t gotten any reports from them in the last couple months,” Brady said.

Brady said during law enforcement officer’s 40 hours of CIT training, they discuss how officers can fill out reports on their laptop while in a squad car. While officers are getting better at submitting reports as a region, Brady said it’s something he is continually working on with them.

In April and May, Des Moines County submitted 25 reports, Lee County submitted four, Washington County submitted three and Keokuk County submitted four.

Brady said the reports show that officers who are CIT trained use less force during arrests.

The total number of reports received in April was 20 and were all responses to scenes that needed mental health evaluation or crisis stabilization.

Seven of the reports were handled on scene and the person was referred to services by the responding CIT officer. Twelve reports ended with transport to the emergency room, either voluntary or involuntary. Eight reports were to someone who reported suicidal thoughts or had threatened or attempted suicide.

One report ended with transportation to jail because of existing warrants and only three reports ended in some use of force during the interaction.

In May, 16 reports were received and were also all reports to scenes that needed mental health evaluation or crisis stabilization. Six reports ended with on-scene referrals to other resources by the CIT-trained officer. Nine reports concluded with transportation of the patient to the emergency room, with one transported back to Optimae LifeServices. No reports included that force was used.

Sarah Berndt, Coordinator of Disability Services, said that a judge who spoke at a CIT training in October 2018 learned about the CIT reports and thought they would be an incredibly valuable tool to take to emergency rooms with patients.

Brady said that he is working on establishing a course that takes place over five weeks for one day a week to accommodate smaller departments. He is also working to establish a course for dispatchers and an advanced CIT program.