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Training police how to identify, respond to mental health crises can prevent tragedies

Kalamazoo police car
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety
Kalamazoo was the first city in Michigan to implement the Crisis Intervention Team model.


Perhaps you’ve heard news stories about police arriving on the scene and mistaking someone with autism or a mental illness as a violent threat. Sometimes that story ends very badly.

That's why some police departments have started training officers to identify a mental health crisis and deal with the situation without using violent force. It's called the "Crisis Intervention Team" model. 

Rafael Diaz is an executive lieutenant with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. The city was the first in Michigan to implement Crisis Intervention Team programs. He joined Stateside to talk about how the CIT model works.

"Through training and education, and scenarios that we use in the training, they start to detect the different cues or indicators where they start to see that this is really a crisis event. And we treat it as a medical issue and get that person the help that they need," said Diaz.


Once officers determine that the subject is experiencing a mental health crisis, Diaz says the officers slow things down by using time, distance, and cover. He says these strategies have been shown to reduce the chances of violence.

"The number of injuries to officers goes down, the number of injuries to the person in crisis goes down, and there is  a huge benefit to society there if you don't have to use physical force," he explained.

Listen to the full interview to hear more about the training process, CIT success rates, and why Diaz is adamant that mental health crises should be handled like medical events.


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