Special Crisis Training for police aims to prevent tragedy - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Special Crisis Training for police aims to prevent tragedy

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

What happens when law enforcement officers show up to the scene of a crime and they come in encounter with a suspect with a mental illness? What's being done to make sure officers have the best training in a crisis?

Mecklenburg County is partnering with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police and other local law enforcement to give officers crisis intervention training or CIT.

CMPD Sgt. Ivan Reitz is a graduate of the Crisis Intervention Training class. Now one of the instructors one of the first things he teaches: how to be good, active listeners.

"As they're sitting through the training, they're like, 'oh I see this or I could have done that'," he said. "Or this would have worked in that situation."

He knows the importance of listening and evaluating a situation as it unfolds instead of making assumptions.

"If I'm not listening and I come in with a pre-conceived notion of what's going on and think I already know the solution is, and I'm like let's hurry this up, let's hurry this up, they're not going to listen to me," he said.

When officers are faced with a crisis, trying to diffuse a situation --like this one last month on Cooper Drive where police shot and killed Spencer Mims when he charged at them with a box cutter--it can mean the difference between life and death.

Police haven't said if Mims suffered from mental illness, but its why Reitz says CIT is needed.

"We learn how to -- what kind of triggers they have. What are some things we can use to de-escalate when they're in crisis

Crises Program administrator Sarah Greene says are happening more.

She says the answer is getting them help -- not sending them to jail.

"When they get out, they tend to de-compensate and had have problems and come back in jail again."

More importantly the training teaches officers -- even the veterans-- they still have things to learn.

"People are saying, 'wow, I've been doing it wrong' then get to the end of the week and they're really proud for what they're going to be able to take with them."

The program is in hundreds of cities across the country. It started in Memphis, TN is the 1980s after police shot and killed a mentally ill woman who had a weapon.

The model dictates 10 percent of each department receive CIT. The 40 hour class unfolds over the course of a week.

475 officers in the Charlotte region have been certified. The class is held four times a year and the program aims to train 100 officers annually.

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