Winchester Police Department officers who have been properly trained in how to respond to calls for service involving individuals with mental health issues will soon be displaying the accomplishment on their uniform. Winchester Police Chief John Piper is a strong advocate for the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) program and is excited to announce his approval for officers to wear the training pin, which bears the initials “CIT” and “Northwestern” (a nod to the Northwestern Community Services Board, which facilitates the coursework).
CIT is an international movement within the law enforcement field that aims to deescalate potentially life-threatening situations for subjects experiencing a crisis in mental health. In 2016, the Winchester Police Department reported that 15% of their time was devoted to mental health calls for service, which is equivalent to 2,478 man hours.
In his first months as Chief of Police, Chief Piper has met with community leaders and members who have stressed the importance of officers being properly trained in how to handle mental health calls for service. “Displaying the pin will send a message to the community that this is a priority, and will reassure the public that our highly trained personnel will properly handle calls for service,” stated Chief Piper. “When officers receive training in crisis intervention, reports of use of force decline.” In 2012, the Winchester Police Department reported 71 incidents of force; in 2016, there were 35.
Detective Lisa Hyde was the first WPD officer to receive the specialized training in 2007. Today, more than one-third of the department is certified with CIT. A goal of the department is to ensure that all patrol officers receive the training after their second year as an officer. Today, crisis intervention training is offered as a 40-hour course to officers who have exhibited an exemplary ability to handle incidents involving mental health subjects – or even those without mental health issues. On the importance of CIT, Hyde stated that “even if the people that officers come in contact with do not have a mental health issue, the training is still helpful for helping people who might be in crisis.”
Corporal Justin Schumer, a CIT-certified officer since 2017, stated that he and a fellow officer “…appreciated the class and think that it’s something that all patrol officers should have.” When recalling a particular incident where his CIT skills proved effective, he stated that “…prior to CIT, the call likely would have ended differently.”
Master Patrol Officer Mark Lahman (pictured), who patrols the Loudoun Street Mall, is proud to have accomplished the certification. “It was one that I was nervous to go into, but once I completed the course, I was glad that I did. It shows you things that you take for granted and often don’t realize.” All CIT officers will soon display the pin, seen worn in the photo below by MPO Lahman, which will indicate to the community that they have received the specialized training.