BUTTE – “Go home, go home!” The female participant in police training taunts a pretend neighbor, while an officer tries to break them up.
Police often respond to scenes that are out of control. This is why they train to end a conflict peacefully before it escalates into violence.
“ Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” a trainee shouts.
Law enforcement in Butte went through a week-long Crisis Intervention Team—or CIT—training, which teaches officers how to deal with someone going through a crisis situation.
“That ranges from somebody who has been diagnosed as bi-polar, paranoid schizophrenic, things of that nature, to just having a bad day, lost their job and they’ve been put in crisis,” said Butte Det. Sgt. Jeff Williams.
The final day of training involved several scenarios in which participants acted out a police call that was escalated due to someone having a mental health crisis.
CIT training was started years ago to curb violent and sometimes deadly encounters between police and people with mental issues.
“ In 1989 when I started, things were a little different. When I responded to certain situations, the idea was to grab the person and restrain them as quickly as possible and then kind of work through the situations and see why they were doing whatever they were doing,” said Butte Sheriff Ed Lester.
For the past five years, Butte police have held this training to learn how to communicate with someone in distress and resolve the situation without violence.
“So we’re to the point after five academies that about 99 percent of our department has gone through this training,” said Williams.
One scenario called the “train wreck” is quite a train wreck; it’s very chaotic, and sometimes officers encounter situations that are really out of control and they have to deescalate it.
“If we’re able to deescalate somebody who’s highly agitated without even having to touch them and plug them into the services they need, we’re that much further ahead. They’re not at risk, we’re not at risk and we’re not housing them in the jail when they don’t belong there,” Lester said.
The training also included detention officers, dispatchers, and mental health professionals.
Reporting by John Emeigh for MTN News