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Police learn to use words instead of force
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A recent Crisis Intervention Team graduate went to work one day earlier this month, expecting just another day on the job, but the situation he faced could have ended in violence had he not been part of Georgia’s CIT training program.
The CIT-trained police officer recently shared his story:
“We were called to a situation where a male was physically abusing his mother. He had been drinking and was armed with a gun. The individual was known to be schizophrenic and had been noncompliant with his treatment,” the officer said. “Using our CIT training skills, we de-escalated the situation and got him to give his gun to us. I couldn’t believe it. We had just graduated the week before from CIT training.
“Through the intervention skills we learned, we were able to bring a safe conclusion to this potentially deadly situation for the mother, the individual and our team.”
Law enforcement from the sheriffs’ offices of Tattnall, Toombs and Bulloch counties, along with the police departments of Pembroke, Glennville, Reidsville, Vidalia and Baxley, spent 40 hours in CIT training to help them effectively and humanely interact with persons affected by mental illness, developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease and addictive diseases. 
Since 2004, the Georgia CIT program has sought to equip Georgia law-enforcement officers with the skills to recognize and assist people with behavioral-health disorders in crisis, thereby advancing public and citizen safety and reducing stigma, according to a news release.
The recent training class was hosted Aug. 8-12 by the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office and staffed by local Georgia Association of Community Service Boards member Pineland MH/DD/AD, with assistance from NAMI. 
It included clinical classroom instructions, practical de-escalation role-play exercises, experiences of consumers and family members and site visits to Pineland facilities. 
The training covered a variety of subjects, including understanding and preventing suicide, signs and symptoms of mental illness, de-escalation techniques, legal issues and mental health law, addictive diseases and child and adolescent interventions.
“CIT is vital for law enforcement to take part in, and our goal is to have our whole team trained,” Capt. Kevin Keyfauver of the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office said. “On a day-to-day basis, we not only encounter individuals on calls that may be experiencing behavioral issues, but we also regularly transport individuals to our community mental-health care facilities. CIT helps our team learn how to use words instead of force when diffusing situations. It makes it safer for everyone involved.”
Through Georgia CIT partnerships, more than 4,000 law enforcement officers have received special training since the program’s inception. 
“The specialized training of CIT enables officers to better understand and relate to individuals with mental disabilities or disorders when in the field,” said GBI Special Agent Debbie Shaw, CIT coordinator for state law enforcement. “This program brings law enforcement, mental-health providers and the community at large together to provide the best service possible to all its citizens.”

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