By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Meridian Police Department Chief James Reed pointed out Friday afternoon one of the fundamental advantages of law enforcement officers going through Crisis Intervention Team training.
"This training helps us as law enforcement officers to better ascertain who needs mental health care and who needs to be incarcerated," Reed told the second graduating class of the East Mississippi Crisis Intervention Team program. "It gives us latitude in how we treat people we come in contact with on a regular basis."
This latest class, that included five LCSD deputies and eight MPD patrolman and detectives, brings the total number of law enforcement officers who are CIT certified to 27. It is the hope of organizers and administrators of the program the number of officers and agencies taking advantage of this valuable learning program will only increase as the word gets out about its effectiveness. Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said law enforcement and mental health officials around the state are watching closely to see just how effective CIT can be.
"The state is paying attention to what is going on here," said Sollie. "There is no reason to 'stuff em and cuff em' anymore. Now we have the training to address this issue."
The CIT programs now number more than 2,500 in more than 45 states and several foreign countries, including Sweden and Australia. The emphasis of CIT is training first responders on how to interact with people with mental health issues. Mental health facilities such as Weems Community Mental Health Center in Meridian have partnered with law enforcement to implement the program.
CIT training is funded by a U. S. Department of Justice Criminal Justice Mental Health Collaboration Grant to the LCSD. The MPD and LCSD have partnered with Weems Community Mental Health Center in Meridian in providing the necessary training curriculum.
"This is the culmination of law enforcement, mental health officials, and the community coming together for the common goal of how best to deal with people suffering from mental health issues," said Ward Calhoun, chief deputy of the LCSD who is the project director.
One of the graduates, MPD Cpl. Erik Shirley said the CIT training is much more refined and detailed than anything he has been exposed to before.
"This training has taught me the intricacies in how to deal with people with mental health issues in a much more detailed manner," Shirley said. "We are better able to deal with someone with a mental health issue in order to find help for them rather than putting them in jail where they will not get any help at all."
Those officers who received their graduation certificates are: MPD: Officer Brandon Fireplace, Officer Scott Hopewell, Officer Marty McMullen, Officer Adam Meadors, Detective Otha Sanders, Officer Erik Shirley, Officer Justin Spells, Officer Thomas Wilson. LCSD: Deputy Clifford Holloway, Deputy Joe Kirkpatrick, Deputy Joseph Mathis, Deputy Vance Moore, and Deputy Chris Swanner.