New NYPD Training on Reaching and Helping People in Crisis
Training in the NYPD has been reorganized and revitalized in the past three years. The Police Academy curriculum for recruits, delivered in a new state-of-the art facility in College Point, Queens, now places less emphasis on rote classroom learning and more on scenario-based training that simulates actual conditions on the street. After leaving the Police Academy, recruits now go through six months of field training with experienced officers who mentor them in the fine points of police work in neighborhoods. Veteran officers are now given recurring training, not only in firearms, but in the tactical and communications skills to manage street encounters effectively, as well as de-escalate conflicts and gain voluntary compliance from suspects. All of these new types of training are designed to support neighborhood policing, giving officers the skills and perspective they need to play expanded roles as sector cops and neighborhood coordination officers.
Also to support neighborhood policing, the Department has seen the largest increase in patrol strength since 2001, and the Training Bureau trained nearly 2,800 recruits in 2016. There was also specialized training for 12,000 recruit and in-service trainees in the use of newly distributed belt-worn trauma kits, which equip officers with tourniquets to render aid to bleeding people until medical personnel arrive. As the Strategic Response Group and The Critical Response Command were added to NYPD’s counterterrorism capabilities, more than 1,300 personnel from these units have been trained on the M4 rifle, preparing them to contend with terror or active shooter threats.
Crisis Intervention Training
The NYPD fields well over 100,000 calls regarding emotionally disturbed individuals each year, so it is critical that its officers are equipped to contend with these situations and bring them successful and safe conclusions. In one of the Department’s most important recent training initiatives, Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) is now being provided in a four-day class that teaches active listening skills. Officers learn how to demonstrate empathy and build rapport with subjects, slowing down situations and de-escalating the subject’s negative emotions. Officers who have received this training generally display greater confidence in these situations, are better at recognizing mental illness, and engage in fewer uses of force when dealing with subjects in mental distress.
“CIT policing exposes police officers to the insights of mental health specialists with the goal of reducing the risk of injury to both mentally ill persons and the officers, while diverting such troubled people to mental health treatment instead of jail, whenever appropriate,” said Deputy Commissioner of Training Tracie Keesee, Ph.D.
CIT was developed by NYPD experts in collaboration with mental health professionals and researchers from local universities, as well as other mental health community members. The training is lecture-based, and supported by interactive scenarios and role-play situations. The course is not intended to transform officers into clinicians or social workers, but to impart a better understanding of mental illnesses to help officers assist a person in crisis and gain voluntary compliance.
CIT employs professional actors to put officers to the test. They portray emotionally disturbed people, and people under influence of chemical substances, in different stages of crisis. The actors challenge officers with various scenarios, threatening harm to themselves, the officers, or others, simulating the possible life-and-death consequences of this kind of stand-off. The officers’ responses are judged at class sessions by a clinical psychologist and the course’s other instructors.
The instruction shows officers how to develop a sense of connection with emotionally or mentally troubled people in the throes of crisis. Officers connect to their subjects as fellow human beings—mothers, veterans, people who have struggled with loss. The training is about de-escalating tense situations and finding common ground. It marks a landmark shift in how the NYPD works with people suffering from untreated mental health conditions.
“CIT can be thought of as a method of providing specialized police response; getting skilled officers to scenes where their specialized knowledge and training can be leveraged to increase the chances of a peaceful and voluntary resolution,” said Inspector Gregory Sheehan, commanding officer of the Training Bureau’s Specialized Training Section.
Police Trainees Endorse the Course
Patrol officers who have attended the CIT have been overwhelmingly positive about the training. Ninety-nine percent of the officers who took the course would recommend it to fellow patrol officers.
“This course was, by far, one of the best trainings that I have received on the job,” said one officer.
“I have always considered myself to be good at dealing with emotionally disturbed people, and didn’t expect to really get a lot out of this course, but I was wrong. I learned so much more and took so much from this course.”
Another added, “I will be going back to my precinct and telling everyone to take this course. It is very informative and shows the many ways to handle encounters with people in crisis.”
CIT has already paid dividends in lives literally saved. Police Officer Christian Campoverde from the 40th Precinct had just completed his CIT training when, while off-duty, he managed to stop a man from taking his own life simply by asking him if he wanted a hug. Police Officer Nina Friberg from the 24th Precinct employed the skills she had learned from CIT, showing compassion to a suicidal woman who was determined to jump to her death and effectively saving her life. NYPD officers are seeing these sort of success stories frequently in New York City, thanks to the compassion and negotiation skills taught in Crisis Intervention Training.