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:
NAMI – CIT
Mental Health Crisis Institute – Law Enforcement CIT Training
FBI – CIT Article