The Memphis Police Department was the first to establish a Crisis Intervention Team, or “CIT”, of officers specially trained to respond to individuals in crisis who present mental health issues to law enforcement.
Here is their overview of the Memphis Model:
“In 1988, the Memphis Police Department joined in partnership with the Memphis Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health providers, and two local universities (the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee) in organizing, training, and implementing a specialized unit. This unique and creative alliance was established for the purpose of developing a more intelligent, understandable, and safe approach to mental crisis events. This community effort was the genesis of the Memphis Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team.
“The CIT is made up of volunteer officers from each Uniform Patrol Precinct. CIT officers are called upon to respond to crisis calls that present officers face-to-face with complex issues relating to mental illness. CIT officers also perform their regular duty assignment as patrol officers.
“The Memphis Police Department has approximately 225 CIT officers who participate in specialized training under the instructional supervision of mental health providers, family advocates, and mental health consumer groups. Due to the training, CIT officers can, with confidence, offer a more humane and calm approach. These officers maintain a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage.”
The reported benefits of the program include: (1) crisis response is immediate; (2) arrests and use of force has decreased; (3) underserved consumers are identified by officers and provided with care; (4) patient violence and use of restraints in the ER has decreased; (5) officers are better trained and educated in verbal de-escalation techniques; (6) officer’s injuries during crisis events have declined; (7) officer recognition and appreciation by the community has increased; (8) less “victimless” crime arrests; (9) decrease in liability for health care issues in the jail; and (10) cost savings.
The program also reports the following achievements:
“National advocates, such as The National Alliance on Mental Illness and The American Association of Suicidology have recognized the CIT program for distinguished service to the mentally ill. NAMI (Memphis) credits CIT with saving lives and preventing injuries, both for consumers and officers. Officer injury data has decreased by seven-fold since the program inception. University of Tennessee studies have shown that the CIT program has resulted in a decrease in arrests rates for the mentally ill, an impressive rate of diversion into the health care system, and a resulting low rate of mental illness in our jails.
“Most importantly, CIT officers give consumers a sense of dignity. This dignity generates a new respect and outlook on the police and the mental health systems.”