Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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May 12, 2014

Officer training dives in deep — A couple of Garvin County police departments recently got a salute for their participation in a program meant to teach officers to better deal with mental illness cases.

Police officers from both Pauls Valley and Lindsay took part in a training session for what’s called Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).

Put simply it’s training to help officers spot and deal with individuals suffering from some type of mental health condition.

Once that’s learned officers then have a better handle on what these people might need rather than a jail cell.

Hosted by the PV Police Department, the training session was held at the local Reynolds Recreation Center this past February.

“This is in-depth training to teach officers how to properly recognize and handle calls involving the mentally ill,” said PV Assistant Police Chief Derrick Jolley.

“It’s about recognizing the signs or symptoms of mental illness,” he said.

“This training covers a lot about the symptoms and what these people go through.”

Jolley is very familiar with the training since he was the first PV officer to go through the training back in 2010.

In fact, it was Jolley who helped host the training that had 40 officers from around the state take part in the 40-hour session stretching out over a week.

The three local officers participating in the training were Dean Phillips, Cricket Warren and Jason Mullett.

According to Jolley, all of this is about the calls officers respond to involving a person suffering from such things as schizophrenia, bipolar, depression or anxiety.

With the CIT training officers can better assess if a person is in real need of mental health help or something less drastic and more beneficial to the individual and the situation.

One example is during a call an officer without the training might get slapped and take that person to jail, who then faces a felony charge filed against them.

In that same scenario a CIT trained officer has a better chance of recognizing the signs and instead of arresting the person the officer gets them the mental health help they may need.

The result is many of these individuals are averted from the criminal justice system and into a mental health program.

“The use of force with CIT trained officers is way down,” Jolley said. “It results in a whole lot more peaceful encounters.

“Sometimes you’ve got a lot of them who just need to blow off some steam. You just let them talk it out. This training results in many more safer contacts.”

Jolley adds there’s 80 percent less chance of an officer using force if they’ve had the CIT training.

In those cases when an officer does assess it as someone in need of something other than jail they take the person to a licensed mental health professional for an evaluation.

The CIT training session includes exercises set up where officers must listen to “voices” through headphones while doing other duties, Jolley said.

There’s also plenty of information on the legal aspects of these kind of cases.

In the past year there have been more than 80 people taken into custody by PV police officers who were then taken for mental health evaluations.

“There are countless other encounters where people don’t meet the criteria,” Jolley added.

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