HATTIESBURG, Miss.(WHLT) – Law enforcement agencies throughout the Pine Belt are learning how to respond to calls involving mentally ill people. 

The Crime Intervention Team (CIT) is a program designed to educate authorities on the best way to deal with crisis situations. Whether it’s a person with PTSD, someone who refuses to take their medication, or a person threatening to harm themselves. 

“The goal of the training is to teach officers how to respond in a crisis situation, in an appropriate and empathetic manner… rather than taking control of the situation and throwing people in jail,” said Linda Foley, Pine Belt Regional Crisis Intervention Coordinator. 

During training officers are taught four steps to guide when responding to a call. These four steps come straight from the 1989 Memphis model. 

The model is based off an officer-involved shooting that killed a schizophrenic man. After the incident researchers studied the best way law enforcement should approach 9-1-1 calls involving these type of people. 

To practice the four steps of the model, the crime intervention trainers act out scenarios for the officers. 

“We practice for about 24, well 16 hours role playing actual situations that have happened on the street. We have trained officers and mental health professionals, that play consumers that are in distress and the officers respond using their four steps,” Linda explains. 

After role playing, the officers are critiqued by a law enforcement and health professional. Both sharing how the officer responded to the scenario and what they could have done better. 

Lieutenant LaTosha Myers-Mitchell, of the Hattiesburg Police Department, explains this training teaches patience and help officers think before they act. 

“We have to remember that we need to be patient, you know not be in a rush to do things when somebody’s agitated. Your job is to deescalate the situation. In the situation when someone’s being very irate, it’s important for you to keep calm, be patient, and deescalate the situation.”

Lt. Myers-Mitchell says HPD has at least one CIT officer working during every shift, and with the training this week, two more officers will receive certifications.