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Training is more than a one-shot deal. Several times a year, officers meet for debriefing meetings and in-service trainings to problem solve tactical issues, discuss different experiences and scenarios they have encountered, and participate in advanced training. This allows officers a chance to reinforce and sharpen their skills, address new problems, and build cohesiveness.
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Crisis Response Team (CRT) training, developed in Memphis TN, provides a model of specialized law enforcement expertise. Volunteer officers, based in the general patrol division, work in cooperation with the mental health system, consumers, and families. Trained CRT Police officers carry on the normal duties of law enforcement, but switch to a specialist role when a potential mental health-related crisis is identified within the City of Hazelwood.
CRT focuses on de-escalation strategies and redirecting the individual from the criminal justice system to the mental health care system. In turn, the mental health care system assumes custody of the individual and provides directed and non-restrictive accessibility to a full range of health care and social service options.
Selected/volunteer police officers take part in a 5-day, 40-hour training program. The program includes mental health and substance abuse experts, legal experts, consumer/family advocates, and experienced Crisis Response Team (CRT) officers. Once trained CRT officers are in place, high-risk crisis calls are directed to an on-duty CRT officer.
The CRT officer leads a police-based crisis intervention of generalist officers. The CRT officer, employing a de-escalation intervention strategy, may access BHR crisis services, or transport the individual to a partnered hospital emergency room. The mental health system assumes custody and provides a police-friendly efficient turnaround time for the officer to return to normal patrol duties.
Police are often the first to be called for a crisis situation involving persons with a mental illness. These crisis situations can and have an involved officer and citizen injuries or deaths in the St. Louis area. Crisis Response Team (CRT) training significantly decreases injuries, death, and community dissent. In turn, persons with a mental illness are diverted to the mental health system and treatment rather than to jail or to return to the streets.
Citizens become more confident in reporting crisis situations and police officers are better prepared to respond safely to those situations. Crisis intervention shifts from lose-lose to win-win.