Ventura Police Department

Ask The Chief
Crisis Intervention Team

Question: I've heard that the Ventura Police Department has a new program for dealing with mentally ill people. Would you tell me more about it?

Answer: About a year ago we began looking for a more effective way to deal with persons with mental illness. After examining several programs, we decided that the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program best suited our needs. CIT's main goal is safety - for the community, for the person in crisis, and for the officers and crisis team workers.

CIT, also known as the "Memphis Model", was created in the late 1980's by the Memphis, Tennessee Police Department after they experienced a significant increase in officer involved shootings of persons with mental illness. CIT teaches officers and communications operators, who are often the first point of contact for the mentally ill, how to deal with persons in crisis, how to recognize different types of mental illness, and how to get the person the most appropriate services.

The San Jose Police Department has an operational CIT Program that is modeled on the Memphis program. Two police supervisors, Sergeant Mark Stadler and Corporal Jack Richards, along with Dr. Michael Ferguson, head of Ventura County's Behavioral Health Crisis Team, examined San Jose's program to see if it would meet the needs of our community. The same three representatives attended San Jose's CIT Academy in May 2001.

Under the guidance of Assistant Chief Pat Miller, a 40-hour CIT Academy was developed for Ventura County law enforcement personnel. The Academy is a partnership between Ventura County Behavioral Health Services and all of the law enforcement agencies in the county. In November, the CIT program and the Academy curriculum were presented to members of the Ventura Alliance for the Mentally Ill and Client Network. And on December 6, the first class of 32 officers, deputies, and communications operators graduated from the CIT Academy.

The value of the CIT program is already in evidence. Shortly after returning from the San Jose training, Sergeant Stadler, working with members of the Crisis Team, used the skills he had learned to talk a suicidal subject out of jumping off a railroad bridge onto the freeway near California Street. In the few weeks since graduation from the CIT Academy, Ventura police officers have handled 15 incidents using their Crisis Intervention Team skills.