Preparing officers to effectively respond to people in crisis through training is essential in enhancing these interactions.48 It is also important to provide training to 911 call-takers and dispatchers that is tailored to their unique positions and includes content on recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health crises and the availability of crisis response programs in the community. Agencies differ in the type of training provided and who receives training. For instance, some agencies provide basic training to all officers and more comprehensive, specialized training to a subset of officers with specific assignments to respond to people experiencing a crisis. Other agencies provide comprehensive training to all officers. Generally, training on crisis response should include the following: signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, community resources and disposition options, legal considerations, and de-escalation techniques. The use of scenario-based training can help enhance the learning experience and provide officers with the opportunity to practice their skills.
In planning a new training program or enhancing an existing training, it is important to ensure collaboration among law enforcement and other key stakeholders, including mental health providers, advocacy organizations, and people living with mental health conditions and their families. Various trainings exist for officers related to crisis response, mental health conditions, and developmental disabilities. Several trainings on these topics are described below.
Crisis Response and Intervention Training (CRIT)
Developed by the Academic Training Initiative to Inform Police Responses with the support of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Crisis Response and Intervention Training (CRIT) is a 40-hour training program designed to prepare officers in their responses to people experiencing behavioral health conditions and developmental disabilities.
For more information on CRIT, visit the Academic Training Initiative’s CRIT Toolkit. The toolkit includes resources needed to support the coordination and delivery of the training in a law enforcement agency. These materials are available online and at no cost and include an Instructor Guide, trainer materials and resources, a Participant Guide, and PowerPoint presentations for each module.
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training
The purpose of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training is to prepare select patrol officers to assist people experiencing a crisis.49 During this training, officers learn how to identify and respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis, divert people from the criminal justice system, and help people access local mental health services.
Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety
Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety is a training for law enforcement officers and other personnel that provides additional response options to help de-escalate crisis incidents and better understand mental illnesses to respond to mental health-related incidents without compromising safety.
For additional information on Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety, visit the Mental Health First Aid’s website.
Pathways to Justice
Pathways to Justice is an initiative of The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®) that is designed to improve access to justice for people with disabilities. Pathways to Justice training is a full-day, in-person training for law enforcement, victim services providers, and legal professionals that covers how to identify, interact with, and accommodate people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other disabilities.
For more information on Pathways to Justice, visit The Arc’s NCCJD website.
ICAT: Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics
Developed by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), ICAT is a training program for first responding police officers that is designed to provide them with the tools, skills, and options to successfully and safely defuse a range of critical incidents. ICAT is specifically designed for situations involving people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis or other crisis who are unarmed or are armed with weapons other than firearms.
For additional information on ICAT, visit PERF’s website.
Additional Resources on Training on Crisis Response
This section provides an overview of the necessary training for officers to safely and effectively manage encounters with people with mental illness. It focuses on types of training, timeframes for training officers, suggested curricula to use, and other resources for a comprehensive training program.
The IACP, in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), promotes law enforcement and mental health collaboration in small, mid-sized, and large police departments across the United States. We provide customized training and technical assistance to law enforcement to enhance the responses to individuals with mental health conditions and intellectual/developmental disabilities. With this project, the IACP will grow and enhance cross-system responses between local law enforcement and mental and behavioral health service delivery partners. By fostering a strong alliance between law enforcement and mental health service partners, the IACP aims to improve the welfare of vulnerable individuals and improve public and officer safety.
This resource discusses Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety and Crisis Intervention Team programs. It discusses considerations for selecting a training and who to train.
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center (2008) Improving Responses to People with Mental illnesses: Strategies for Effective Law Enforcement Training
This publication serves as a practical handbook written for law enforcement personnel and staff at other agencies who are planning a training initiative that will support a crisis intervention team (CIT), co-response, or other type of specialized law enforcement-based response program, as well as for individuals looking to enhance an existing training initiative.