November 09, 2010

SIUC officers to participate in specialized training

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Five officers with the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Department of Public Safety will participate in a training course that helps police effectively and safely deal with people suffering from mental illness and other behavioral disabilities.

Sponsored by Southern Illinois Criminal Justice Training Program, the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training initiative is an in-depth, 40-hour course to assist all officers who “respond to crisis calls involving people who have behavioral disabilities,” according to program information.

The course runs Nov. 15-19 at John A. Logan College in Carterville. Tom Johnson, a statewide CIT coordinator, will facilitate the course and bring experienced instructors from throughout the state.

“In areas of the state that have utilized this training there have been very positive results,” said Todd D. Sigler, director of SIUC’s Department of Public Safety. “It provides a set of enhanced tools of communication skills and recognition of individuals who are in crisis.”

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the training sessions. A suggested time is 1 p.m., on Thursday, Nov. 18, when participants will be going through role-play exercises. For more information about the training and to arrange interviews, contact Mike Norrington, director, Southern Illinois Criminal Justice Training Program, at 618/457-3514.

Sigler explained that it can be difficult to communicate with people who have a variety of mental illnesses or disabilities or various other disorders. If the person is possibly not coherent as a result of taking improper medication, no medication, or suffering from substance abuse, communication can become even more difficult, he said.

“Having officers with these recognition and problem-solving skills is going to be a benefit to departments that have the officers available,” Sigler said. It can also result in safe resolutions to situations that could potentially spiral out of control as a result of an inability to effectively assess and de-escalate the situation, he added.

If the training is a success, Sigler hopes to bring it to the region again in the future.

The Memphis, Tenn., Police Department developed Crisis Intervention Team Training; the first team in Illinois to implement the training was in Springfield and Sangamon County in May 2003.

The training will help officers “better deal with incidents and situations involving people with mental health issues … and better able to identify the signs and symptoms of disorders,” SIUC police Lt. Kenneth W. Sneed said. Police will learn whether an individual needs more help, and make arrangements for the person to go to a facility for treatment, he said.

The number of officers the department is sending “speaks volumes to how important the program is,” Sneed said.

The Southern Illinois Criminal Justice Training Program is one of 16 mobile training units of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. The Southern Illinois Criminal Justice Training Program is Mobile Training Unit 15, and provides training to law enforcement and corrections personnel in 27 counties in the region.

Approximately 30 police officers will attend. In addition to officers from SIUC and Carbondale, officers from Williamson County, Jefferson County, Edwards County, and Anna, Carmi, and Energy police departments are participating, said Michael Norrington, mobile training unit 15 director.

“We are very pleased and proud to be able to offer this training. It has been in the making for several months, requiring a good deal of planning and set-up,” he said.

Mental health professionals from Southern Illinois Regional Social Services, the Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center and other regional mental health organizations are involved with the planning. Norrington also expressed thanks to Johnson, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, and John A. Logan College, along with participating agencies.