Deputy Cole among Crisis Intervention Team Members Honored at Awards Luncheon
Alexandria’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) held its annual awards luncheon on Tuesday, November 12 at Alexandria Police headquarters. Hosted by Mayor William D. Euille, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, Police Chief Earl Cook and Liz Wixson from the Department of Community and Human Services, the event honored four Crisis Intervention Team members, including Deputy Michael Cole (at right with Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and Undersheriff Tim Gleeson).
Other awards recipients were Teresa Smith who was named CIT Department of Emergency Communications Employee of the Year, Officer Raymond Golden named CIT Officer of the Year, and Officer Richard Harrell for the CIT Intervention of the Year.
Deputy Cole was recognized for his dedication to the CIT program where he also serves as a trainer. Because of his recent assignment in the Warrant Unit, Deputy Cole regularly worked with members of the general public and could recognize the warning signs of persons experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Many of the people he arrested on outstanding warrants had either mental health or substance abuse issues, so his CIT training was invaluable as he interacted with them. Further, because he worked on the streets, he was able to back up police officers who needed CIT assistance when dealing with at-risk residents. Deputy Cole also used his CIT training when transporting inmates with mental health issues to and from state hospitals and court appearances to determine their mental competency. Serving as a member of the U.S. Marshal Service’s Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, Deputy Cole will certainly continue to use his CIT training.
CIT was developed in collaboration with the Department of Community and Human Services, the Alexandria Police Department, and the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office to help improve staff interactions and outcomes with persons with mental illness and substance use disorders. Unlike most CIT programs across the country which are comprised solely of police officers, Alexandria’s program includes staff from all first responding agencies to ensure that a comprehensive, City-wide approach is in place to assist residents with mental illness. Through their 40 hours of training, officers and deputies learn skills such as suicide intervention, verbal de-escalation techniques, the role of the family in the care of a person with mental illness, and legal training in mental health and substance abuse issues. In addition to classroom instruction, CIT members participate in role playing exercises based on real-life scenarios and spend a day visiting mental health and substance abuse inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities where they have the opportunity to engage in one-on-one dialogue with mental health consumers.
CIT is based on a model developed by the Memphis Police Department in 1988 following a police shooting of a person with mental illness, and has since been adopted in communities in 45 states. The training is designed to educate and prepare law enforcement officers and other officials who come in contact with people with mental illnesses to recognize the signs and symptoms and to respond effectively and appropriately.
The program is one of a number of cooperative, multi-agency initiatives currently underway in Alexandria to help divert persons with mental illness and substance use disorders away from the criminal justice system and into the treatment system, enabling them to live law-abiding and productive lives in our community. More than 250 first responders and public safety professionals have been trained in Alexandria.