Crisis Intervention Team – Importance of Having CIT Trained Law Enforcement

Recently on The Journey of Kylie, she blogged about a situation involving the cops handcuffing her in a rough, violent manner during a mental health encounter when she was not violent or resisting them in a violent manner at all.

This got me thinking about CIT officers.  CIT officer stands for Crisis Intervention Team.  These are officers within the police or sheriffs department who are trained to interact and deal with individuals who have mental health illness. 

I have personally dealt with CIT officers when I was in college, on many occasions.  All of my interactions with them were very positive.  In my city, the majority of officers were trained in CIT.  In fact, when they were trained, part of their training was to go to the local psych hospital and talk to the patients and get our perspectives on how we were treated by police officers when they were called to our apartments/houses.  I was in the psychiatric hospitals multiple times, so I talked to those going through training about 3 or 4 times to help them understand what would help me if they came to my apartment, and what would not help me, and my past experiences were like. 

Not everyone has positive experiences though.  As you can tell from The Journey of Kylie, interactions with cops during a mental health issue, is not always positive.  And not every city has CIT trained officers.  In fact, a lot of cities don’t.  There are actually countless stories of people with mental illness being shot and killed by cops for one reason or another when it could have been prevented if another tactic could have been used to help them rather than kill them. 

It is really absolutely reprehensible that these things are happening.  People with mental illness should not be treated like this.  If we are not an active threat to someone else.  If we are not an active threat to ourselves.  Holding a gun.  Holding a knife.  Holding something that could be used as a weapon and actually dangerous.  If we are not resisting arrest and causing problems.  Why are we being shot and killed?  Why are we being slammed against walls and handcuffed? 

Yes, I have been taken to a hospital in handcuffs.  But my hands were cuffed by my sides or in front of me.  I accept this and understand why this was done.  It was explained to me and done in a dignified manner.  While I did not really see the need for it as I was not resisting and was voluntarily going, I was treated respectfully at least.  But these awful treatments of people with mental illness are completely unacceptable.  They are not and should not be accepted by anyone. 

If you do not have CIT officers in your city, talk to your criminal justice department about implementing it, I have listed some resources that you could contact about it at well:

CIT International


Mental Health Crisis Institute – Law Enforcement CIT Training

FBI – CIT Article




6 thoughts on “Crisis Intervention Team – Importance of Having CIT Trained Law Enforcement”

  1. I’ve never had positive interactions with the police around my mental illness. Maybe I’ve never lived in a place with well-trained officers; I’m not sure. I’ve been handcuffed before, because I have severe PTSD triggered by police (my father, who was very abusive, was also a cop). When they would touch me, I’d go into flashbacks and start freaking out, and they clearly didn’t know how to handle me. On more than one occasion I was berated and mocked. Not once did any of them try to talk to me and find out what was going on and why I was so terrified.

    My sister is now a police officer, and I hope that her experience growing up with me has given her more compassion and experience in dealing with this kind of situation. We’ve never really talked about it, and I doubt we ever will.


  2. I am so sorry you never had a good experience. I am now living in a city that does not have any CIT officers and I am terrified of having a bad experience if I ever have a run in with them.

    I also have PTSD related to past abuse (as a child and then a rape in college), so if a cop ever took control in a rough manner it would totally freak me out and I would probably lose it even more making the situation worse.

    I really hope more cities adopt the CIT training. So many studies have found that it is helpful. There are so many negative experiences between those with mental illness and the police that no one even wants to reach out for help when they need it (loved ones or those with mental illness) and that shouldn’t be how it is.

    I hope your sister develops her skills to have compassion to those with mental illness and perhaps learned from watching what you went through.


  3. I think a large part of the problem with untrained officers is that if you spend most of your time dealing with criminals, then that’s how you start to see and treat everyone you deal with on the job. We become just another waste of air to them. I don’t know what the solution is…but surely there must be one.


  4. I agree. Their view becomes skewed due to the nature of the majority of their job. I think if there was more education of mental illness in general, not just within the law enforcement system, people would begin to understand it better though and know how to interact with those with mental illness better. And I think if we all, everyone, just learned a bit more patience we would all be better off! But you are right, there really is not one solution, there probably is a complex solution that needs to be found to fix it. Just from my personal experience I know that CIT trained officers definitely helped.


  5. I used to be a case manager for a client who had the cops called for a disturbance instead of the PET team. What resulted was a violent encounter with police that I’m sure ended in some kind of record for her. So unnecessary. Totally agree with your post.


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