Nightmare Come True: Police Training, Autism, and Down Syndrome

Sometimes I spend time worrying about my infant son’s future.  My son with Down syndrome.  My son with a disability.  My son, a human being.

Among the things I worry about is that the world will see him as nothing but a problem.  An anomaly, a special circumstance, some thing to be “handled” and “managed”.  I worry that people will take one look at him and hold him up to a stereotype, and he’ll never have a chance to be fully human.  If he matches the stereotype, everything he says or does will be a foregone conclusion.  If he deviates from the stereotype, he’ll be nothing but an even greater abnormality.

My fears became reality today.

I read a story about police training in Maryland and my stomach heaved.  No exaggeration.  I actually feel sick right now. Click here for the story.

Now look at this shirt:

The shirt was created by Laurie Reyes, who teaches autism awareness trainings for police departments in the state of Maryland.

“The classes help officers deal with people with issues like traumatic brain injuries to out-of-control adolescents to hording (sic) disorders, and include tools to respond to a host of mental illness issues and developmental and intellectual disabilities.”  In the video, one can watch a therapist role play an imaginary situation as having an intellectual disability while officers try to de-escalate the situation.

I’m not even sure why one training lumps together people with traumatic brain injuries, adolescents, mental illness and disability other than they could all be “different”.  Seems problematic, as every person will get caught up in that difference net at some point or another. But, let’s start at the most important issue here…

It is not an individual’s responsibility to wear or show evidence of his or her diagnosis in order to remain safe and retain their basic civil rights.

I understand the logic.  What if my child wanders off?  What if no one stops my child to find out why he or she is alone?  What if my child is non-verbal and can’t communicate with the police?  What if the police misinterpret some behavior, and injury or death ensues?

Here’s the thing: Basic civil rights should have no access requirement.  Period, end of story.  In my opinion, that includes wearing a shirt or flashing an “I’m disabled” hand signal.

Let’s talk specifics.  First, the shirt.

In a time when the disability community is fighting for more inclusion, it disturbs me to no end that these neon shirts are out in the world perpetuating the idea that all autistic children are, by virtue of their diagnosis, not safe to be in public alone.  Children should not be wandering in public by themselves, period.  I’d hope that the average person who saw any child wandering would stop to help.  I don’t have a child with autism, but the point that any child is safe enough to be in public by themselves seems highly individual and situation specific.  At what age can a child stop wearing the shirt?  What happens to the children who don’t wear a shirt, can they not expect the same level of critical thought and eye towards safety from the police as their neon shirt wearing cohorts?  In the meantime, I worry that the message is clear: AUTISM = UNSAFE.  Blanket generalizations about behaviors (like wandering) can be very harmful.

Star of David used by Nazis to identify Jews.  People with disabilities were also publicly marked.  (photo from Wikipedia commons)

Star of David used by Nazis to identify Jews. (photo from Wikipedia commons)

I also have an issue with labeling a child’s disability in general.  Autism exists on a spectrum.  Who determines who should wear the neon shirt?  What happens to anyone who simply acts out of the expected “norm”?  Can the police later say that they failed to properly identify themselves and therefore are responsible for their own demise?  Who is the arbiter of “normal” behavior?  I understand the need to address wandering, but having police department hand out bright neon shirts raises far more issues than it solves problems.

Then, the hand signal.  Here, again, I am very worried, and frankly, confused.  After seeing a hand signal to indicate disability, what specific change tactical change in the police is the hand signal designed to elicit?  If it means that the police will then take extra care, extra scrutiny, extra attention to the everyone’s safety, well, isn’t that what the police are supposed to do for everyone?  If it means that the police will make concessions and fail to enforce the law, then I am not interested.  I want my son fully included in society, rules and all.  Just because he has a disability does not mean I expect “special treatment”.  Humane treatment?  Yes.  Living outside the law?  No.

I also am concerned with what happens legally in these situations.  If the person is scared or confused and doesn’t do the hand signal, are the police no longer liable for any injury or death caused by their actions?  If an autistic child takes off the horrid neon shirt (completely understandable) and happens to wander off and get injured despite all other reasonable safeguards put in place, then are the parents negligent?  What if the parents simply do not agree with this kind of public labeling of their child’s diagnosis?

Lastly, what is to stop someone from misusing the hand signal?  Perhaps because I am the wife of a criminal defense lawyer, but such an abuse is not beyond my imagination.

The kind of training described in the story is exactly what I do NOT want to result from Ethan Saylor’s death.  It is, in fact, my worst nightmare. 

I cannot adequately describe how offensive it was for me to watch a therapist pretend to be a person with an intellectual disability.

As I watched the video, I was highly uncomfortable with the therapist’s obvious manipulation of her voice while she yelled about hamburgers and then started spitting at the officers.  Why she thinks that yelling about hamburgers and spitting is a portrayal of intellectual disability in particular, I cannot understand.  Am I to understand that all people with intellectual disabilities will yell and spit upon getting upset?  I don’t know if I could have created a more dehumanizing caricature of a person if I tried.  This is Stigmatization 101.

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but why not bring in an actual advocate who has an intellectual disability? It looks like the shirts were created with the help of Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy group.  I know that the group has been criticized for not including the self-advocate voice enough in its work, I wonder if the training had any self-advocate input.  From the looks of that re-enactment, I doubt it.

I couldn’t tell in the short video but I am wary of what “facts” this training presents.  My worst fear is that a training including Down syndrome will be a checklist of “symptoms” that creates a false impression of Down syndrome (or any other disability, for that matter) which will do more harm than good.  There is no “correct” image of Down syndrome, after all.  It is a syndrome.  Do people with Down syndrome not make eye contact, or hug everyone?  Do they like being touched or not?  Are they all non-verbal?  The potential for stereotyping here is high.

Every day, I read stories about women who are pressured to terminate their pregnancies because they will be unintelligent burdens with poor health.  Every day, I read stories about parents fighting to have their children included in general education settings because they can’t hack it.  Adults with disabilities have difficulties finding employment, fully participating in society, and getting equal medical care.  All of these injustices are, in part, results of false and stigmatizing portrayals of people with disabilities.

Officer Scott Davis, a Montgomery County police officer who leads the training, had this to say:

“This is an epidemic, in my view, and I think society does not view a mental health emergency as a medical emergency and it is. In my view of what we see every day on the street, somebody who is in psychosis, somebody who is in a psychiatric emergency, it’s just as dangerous as somebody who’s having a stroke or a heart attack. And we need to change the stigma of mental illness and let people on the street know that hey, this is just as serious.”

These three sentences portray a depth of misunderstanding that is hard to even tackle.  Disability and mental illness are not the same.  Mental health emergencies are not categorically equal to medical emergencies.  An autistic (or any other person with a diagnosis) person who happens to be upset is not automatically having a “psychiatric emergency”.  Davis’s remarks smack of privilege; I doubt he’d consider himself as having a psychiatric emergency if he were very upset and confused, but rather just a human being who is upset.  I fail to see how he is “changing the stigma of mental illness” with his statement.  In fact, with those three sentences, I saw only that Davis was increasing such stigma.

Lastly, I was downright outraged by what Davis had to say about the Ethan Saylor case.  He is quoted as saying the officers did “everything right”, and that additional training would be of benefit.  I am baffled at how he comes to such a conclusion from simply talking to the officers while there has been no independent investigation.  Saylor’s throat was crushed.  I simply cannot see how he can absolve the three deputies of wrongdoing with such limited information.  I also find it predictable that Davis’s solution to the issue is more training, which happens to be his livelihood.  Frederick County seems to have an issue with its department’s use of force.  Bad cops need accountability, not additional training.

Training as the potential to do real harm. 

My biggest frustration around police training on disability is that many (like Scott Davis) seem to espouse “the more the better”.  I strongly disagree here.  The training could become a tool of stigmatization and marginalization despite its best intentions.  This is not to mention that police officers have very long training hours.  I’d hope they would get effective, valuable training.  If the two minutes I saw were representative of the entire training, then those officers are wasting their valuable time.

Can disability awareness training be valuable?  Absolutely yes.  But this has gone too far.  This is my worst nightmare.  I could write so much more but must stop.  I keep hoping I misinterpreted the story, but what I saw in those two minutes were giant steps backward for disability rights.

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44 Comments on “Nightmare Come True: Police Training, Autism, and Down Syndrome”

  1. Galit says:

    Excellent post! I agree with you that these T-shirts and that kind of “training” is counterproductive at best, downright evil at worst. Just a note from the compulsive proofreader in me: “what specific change tactical change in the police is the hand signal designed to illicit?” — you mean, “elicit” (bring out), not “illicit” (illegal). Just sayin’.

    • jisun says:

      Autocorrect! Darn it. Thank you for catching that! Off to change it.

      Btw, I’m glad to hear from someone not “inside” the community who sees the danger of this kind of training.

  2. It’s all very disturbing. One step forward and two giant steps back. It would be much more effective to just treat all people with dignity. Ugh. I’m really at a loss for words, right now.

  3. Marya says:

    omg…the Governor thinks they did everything right?!

  4. I agree with you. This isn’t the kind of training I would want to see. They need to talk to the parents and caregivers to get a sense of what they need to know. We can tell them much more than any therapist!

  5. Melissa says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My 2 and 1/2 year old has Down Syndrome and I also live in Maryland, so this is a huge concern for me. I don’t think any group of people should be categorized in any type of way. It’s like saying all blondes are dumb, now we all know this isn’t true, so why would we categorize all special needs kids the same way. So wrong, thanks for the awareness!!

    • jisun says:

      Melissa, I hope this changes in Maryland. I don’t even know, maybe this sort if thing happens routinely across the country. All I know is that It is atrocious. All my best to you and your family.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Wow! That video……..it’s out of control. I feel like with those t-shirts we are just one step away from those Stars of David to label our children (although the Nazis didn’t use badges for the disabled–they were sent to extermination camps immediately). This is outrageous.

  7. Keep writing! I am sick! Watch the video closely and you will see people laughing. This is so disgusting to me. So disgusting. Will the T shirts be included now with”Welcome to Holland” as the perfect gift for new moms.

    • jisun says:

      I saw the laughing as well. No wonder it is so hard to have people accept that a person with an intellectual disability is a human equal. Things like this, people like Davis.

  8. Roseanne says:

    Why can’t children be out by themselves? I don’t want you to call the police because a child is outside playing, or riding his bike, or fishing with his friends. The T-Shirts are horrid, but so is the idea that children must always be with an adult until they turn 18.

    • jisun says:

      You’re right Roseanne. I think in my mind I imagined a child who was clearly wandering/lost, not one with a definite purpose. I also don’t see 18 as some magical year of independence. Such a thing comes gradually and depends in the child. Thank you for pointing that out I could have been more articulate there!

      • Recently Gabriel stayed in the car while I went inside the vets. my husband had just left our cat and I had to tag him out. My son has Ds, is 17 and very verbal( ridiculous that I need to quantify this but for the sake of the story) The windows were down, he had his phone. I hesitated leaving him bec of all the horror stories but he happened to be neutropenic and honestly it was more dangerous in my mind having him go inside and be exposed to all the germs and I literally was only inside 15 min. My husband comes out to find a security guard standing near the window looking in at Gabriel. My husband asked if there was a problem and the officer said yes, is he yours? Then he proceeded to tell my husband he couldn’t leave him in the car alone. So my husband asked calmly why it is not ok to leave a 17 year old boy in the car. The officer said you know what I mean, those kind. Well, he got an education and ended up saying the only reason he noticed was because someone had called……we have to change the way people see PWD.

  9. Krom says:

    Revolutionary training!?!? I am horrified.

    • jisun says:

      Yeah that got me too. You can’t just say it is revolutionary and make it so. Or heck, maybe it is revolutionary compared to what they knew, but that is even scarier.

  10. THIS is the slippery slope we were afraid of at the first mention of “training”. As you said – his throat was CRUSHED. Training was not going to help this situation – this is a matter of cops gone rogue – which happens often in Frederick Cty as I hear it. Difference being is that this time – they are able to blame it on his disability – and the push for “training” has perpetuated it. A shirt (is ludicrous) wouldn’t have helped Ethan – you simply cannot tell me that ONE of the three cops didn’t recognize that Ethan had Ds.

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, folks. Let’s keep talking training so we can keep the attention OFF the fact that three cops committed a homicide and have gotten away with it. Heck – even the gov thinks they’ve done everything right. Brilliant job by our nationals helping push this, too. God help us.

  11. Emma says:

    It is really horrible that they lump people with Downs Syndrome in with people with serious mental health issues. Besides the T-shirts, the worst thing about this video is that they use mental disabilities almost interchangeably with metal health issues. This is wrong and just plain silly.
    I can’t comment on Ethan Saylor’s death because I don’t really know anything about it. However, I DO think that police should know, or learn if they don’t, how to deal with people who have very serious mental health issues. If someone is going bezerk like that woman was portraying, then they should know how to handle it. Honestly, I don’t know if extreme cases of Autism should be placed in the same category as mental illness because I have never met a person with Autism and know almost nothing about it. There is always a tension between not stereotyping and having to stop someone who is being destructive. Where is the line?
    As to the criticism that some of the officers were laughing, it is almost completely unfounded. In one clip the officer wasn’t even looking at the woman and was obviously talking to someone else. And in the other, come on! You’re watching your buddies struggling to calm down someone who isn’t making any sense (and who isn’t REALLY like that anyways.) You’re uncomfortable and it’s awkward! Most people I know would giggle a little, including myself.
    Is this video skewed and have some very BAD ideas? Of course! But I also think that underneath all of the stupid things that Mr. Davis says, there are normal officers trying to do their jobs in the best way they can. We shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water and dis the officers along with the people who say dumb things.
    I’d be really happy to talk about how those officer SHOULD be trained instead of complaining about how they’re insensitive and horrible people. ^-^

    • jisun says:

      I’m not sure what you saw in that video that can count as “going berserk”. Yelling? Spitting? Being upset and hard to reason with? These are things that police encounter on a regular basis, period. The fact the trainee couldn’t be mature enough to keep a straight face shows me that the training was not at all accomplishing what it should.

      Sometimes there is no baby in that bath water. Just dirty water that needs to be thrown away in its entirety.

  12. Marie Fox says:

    Wow. This is pretty unbelievable… Seems incredibly misguided and wrong on so many levels.

  13. Jenny says:

    Ug. This whole thing just turns my stomach…And makes me incredibly sad. I couldn’t even watch the video, I already know how I would feel. Such a great post though, everything you had to say in here. Perfect.

  14. Sara Madonna says:

    Jisun,
    Did you send this blog to the department that came up with this piece of garbage training? If you don’t, I will. I won’t get into my thoughts on this, there are too many and you nailed it on the head already.

  15. Michelle Cox says:

    I agree with so much of what you have said… though I’m so thankful that this is even being spoken about… the training is less than the best by far but at least they are going in the right direction… by having training at all… You said that “Mental health emergencies are not categorically equal to medical emergencies”… the problem with this is that police are being asked to manage people who are having a mental health issue… If your having a mental breakdown the police are called in to “manage” the situation rather than the parametics who should be called and take the person to the hospital… this has nothing to do with disability but I wanted to point that out… If my father has an “episode” as a person who does not experience disability but mental illness I want to be able to have a medical professional deal with the situation not the cops….

    • jisun says:

      I’m glad you commented, this is yet another way that systemic failures are creating these awful pressures on the police and medical responders. I’m really wrestling with the idea that any training is better than no training, however. As I see it, these shirts could cause real (potentially dangerous) damage to many, many individuals. Is that worth the possibility of preventing some kind of safety related incident? I’m really not sure.

  16. Joy says:

    I completely agree that the shirts are ridiculous and the training is very vague and should be narrowed down to addressing each specific diagnosis. You can’t just stick a literal label on a person to make it “easier” for society to understand! Police departments don’t always have the time and budget to devote to good quality training for everyone and not all training programs are created equal. I think that you should spread the word using this blog and all means possible to contact the department and let your feelings be known. The only way this training will change is if people like you and everyone else commenting speaks up and demands change.

    This program is new and trainings like this are necessary for police because officers come into contact with such a vast array of people each and every day. Usually they have to deal with people in distress or causing distress to others. They have to devise a course of action quickly to deescalate the situation. Decisions made under stress are not always the best. They rely on the training they receive to handle each unique situation. You say that ” The training could become a tool of stigmatization and marginalization despite its best intentions.” The key word is “could”. Yes, it could, but if they have no knowledge of or experience in dealing with people with mental health issues of disabilities then everyone is at a disadvantage. A smart, educated officer will (hopefully) be able to identify the need to handle a call dealing with a mentally disabled person differently. Understanding that a person is unable to communicate or follow commands given due to a disability rather than viewing their disobedience as defiance will ultimately benefit everyone. Additional people and resources could be called in to help rather than the officer going down the use of force continuum to gain compliance and hurting or killing the person.

    Contact the department and tell them what they are doing wrong and what they need to change! Spread the word and have everyone you know contact them. The best education comes from personal experience and all the parents, families, and friends will be the ones to make this happen.

    • jisun says:

      Thanks for the comment. I think this post has made its way to the officers mentioned in this story, but you’re right, it makes sense to write an actual letter with my concerns. I hope others do as well.

      I’ve thought of my words, and honestly, I think I must revise my “could” to “already has”. Not that good training can’t happen and still change police culture for the better, but this training… I can’t see that it hasn’t already done damage, unfortunately.

  17. I mailed a letter today to Montgomery County Police Chief Munger focusing on Officer Davis absurd statement “I think, based on what I’ve talked to some of the deputies up there, I think they did everything right.”

    Will post any response I get.

    A bit more info, requiring a little background…I’m in a life-changing program for people with acquired brain injury at Coastline CC in Orange County, CA. Probably the best educational bargain in the country. Today at school I saw a fellow student wearing a t-shirt that looked at first a lot like that horrid “I have autism” shirt.

    But HIS shirt said:

    LEAVE ME
    ALONE
    I KNOW
    WHAT I’M
    DOING

    While it doesn’t deal with a more core issue of why can’t he just be accepted for who he is and not feel the need to wear a shirt with a message, his shirt’s message is one I would much rather see out in the community.

    Thoughts?

    Howard

    • jisun says:

      We shirt was worn by a person with a brain injury? To me that seems very different because it is presumably something worn purposefully by the person as an effort to reclaim some of their control over their lives. The autism shirts felt to me that they were taking *away* control, if you catch my drift. I can absolutely see why a person would wear the shirt you saw. I can see much less why someone would wear a shirt like the one in the MD training video.
      Very curious to see if the department is going to respond substantively to any feedback. Definitely come and share!

      • Howard says:

        Yes. He was a former pro racecar driver, brain injury from a crash on the racetrack. I agree with you completely, just didn’t make the point clear. HIS t-shirt is very different from the ones in that horrid training video.

  18. krlr says:

    *sigh*
    This makes me so very, very tired.
    Thank you for fighting on.

  19. Kevix says:

    I wish I could see the video but they must have gotten it deleted to protect themselves.

  20. James Spurgeon says:

    I realize this post and the news articles that went with it are no longer current, but I felt the need to respond to some of your concerns.
    I agree with you on most of your points given the way all of this was presented on the news.
    Fortunately, a majority of the concerns are coming from the way the news covered this training and not from the training itself.

    You comment several times that the training displayed inappropriate curriculum or inappropriate instructors and that corrective possibilities are things like: separate out ID/DD and ASD from Mental Illness; include advocates with Ds or ASD as instructors; remove stereotyping and lists of symptoms; there are several others, but you don’t need me to tell you what you said.

    The point is this, I am a licensed mental health professional in Virginia that happens to also carry a Serious Mental Illness diagnosis and I attended the Montgomery County MD CIT Program’s 40 hour training back in November of 2007.
    What the news didn’t explain was that the training program actually includes every single one of your suggestions. Not some, not most and not just sort-of, it fully incorporates every single one of your corrective possibilities and has since it started 9 years before you saw that news story.
    They teach separate courses on each of the categories of mental illness, another on traumatic brain injury and another on ID/DD and ASD. They have instructors for several “perspective” sessions that either have one of these diagnosis or are the parent of someone who does. They conduct site visits to area mental health facilities (both inpatient and outpatient) and ID/DD/ASD community day programs and the students have time to speak with actual community members during those visits.
    The role play scenario had several issues, but there are 2 critical things the news didn’t explain: First, the therapist playing the role did not make up the situation and the scenarios are not meant to describe everyone with a similar diagnosis! Every scenario presented is based on an actual community event one of the instructors experienced.
    Second thing about scenarios, the training has 3 sessions of scenarios during the second half of the week long training. The video was clearly filmed during the first of those session and the students were still trying to wrap their heads around what was expected. The students attempting the de-escalation could very likely be laughing from their nervous reaction to being required to perform in front of a room full of peers and the laughter from the class was aimed at their classmate’s difficulty in that interaction. I know this despite the lack of reporting on when it occurred because those issues we could both see in the video would have resulted in the student failing the scenario had they been in the final session. Those scenarios are half of the final exam they must pass in order to get credit for having attended the training, so they are not taken lightly by the time they reach that final stage.

    On to the travesty that is those shirts, they are misguided in many ways. They are not likely to be used in any prolific manner and are even less likely to be generally useful (In my opinion, but I believe you would agree that far).
    However, if you look at the image you posted, the shirts are not children’s sizes! They were intended for adults that have a significant enough disability to make communication very difficult with someone that does not know their specific circumstances. Ds has physically identifiable features, but most ID/DD and ASD do not, so I can see where the idea came from. I won’t “knock it” because it is not presented as a 1 size fits all, it is just something the police are offering as an “option” that families could choose to utilize or choose to ignore as they see fit.

    Last specific item you brought up that I want to mention is that hand gesture suggestion. Despite giving the link to it, your actual text implied that it was part of the same news story and directly connected to the T-shirt and or the training. But that sign language based “hand gesture” was the suggestion of another mother, not the police! Frankly, no police department would ever agree to use anything of the sort… Please don’t put this piece on their heads…

    In closing, some food for thought: You vilified the MCPD for stereotyping and making assumptions and attempting to teach those assumptions to others without including anyone from your perspective that could directly understand and explain the truth so it could actually have value.
    You did so because you watched a short news clip and made a list of assumptions and stereotyped accusations about the curriculum and the system of therapists and officers that conduct those trainings (not to mention the advocates that you assumed didn’t even exist). You then took those assumptions and stereotypes and published it as a “nightmare come true” conclusion of fact, all without looking into any aspect of the program or the training curriculum, or even how long it had been around. You didn’t talk to anyone involved, let alone make an attempt at including their voice in your public education campaign.

    Those of us that fight personal stigma, myself most assuredly included, need to use caution that we are fighting the right foe. Every now and then, someone working for the same goal but from a different direction gets miss-identified as the villain, and if we don’t stop long enough to verify, we can end up working against our own cause.

    • jisun says:

      First, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I don’t think I can respond to everything you’ve said here without an entirely new post, but I’ll try to respond to the bigger points. What I’ve come to believe about police training isn’t based on one single news story, as you think. Perhaps this is my own failing in not making that clear but it was a result of a number of things going on at the time: t-shirts, identifying hand signs (not ASL, not from a mother, although I understand from you that perhaps there area multiple places that this issue has been brought up), training in lieu of accountability. I do recall asking whether there were advocates involved and no one responded to me. I think you’re assuming I’m just a mommy who got hot under the collar after reading one article but I’d encourage you to revisit that assumption.

      As for the T-shirts I knew of more than one police department partnering with local groups to promote their use, as well as registries. I do not care whether they were for children or adults–my objections remain the same and perhaps even more for an adult.

      More broadly, I’m glad that you felt the training you attended was valuable for you. I am not against people (including police) learning about diverse communities as a general effort to create inclusiveness and understanding. However, my feelings on this brand of police training have not changed, as I have seen no evidence that they change the levels of police violence against people with disabilities. Historically, police violence against people of color was also met with calls for awareness training and education. That hasn’t born fruit, and I do not expect any different for people with disabilities. Our police system is structured to allow violence against certain communities over others. I do not support giving law enforcement more money and resources for training without systemic change and greater accountability measures.

      • James Spurgeon says:

        You are correct that education without accountability is just blowing into the wind, and I can’t speak to how deeply the MCPD has embraced that accountability in recent years. One thing I forgot to mention in the previous post. The MCPD CIT Program was under Officer Joan Logan when I attended the training. Were she still in charge of it, I would be more confident in vouching for their commitment to system wide change. I have never met Officer Scott Davis and don’t know enough about him to draw even rudimentary conclusions.

        What I can say is that law enforcement and community health partnerships that are faithfully built on the Memphis (TN) Model for Crisis Intervention Teams, have system wide accountability as a core part of the philosophy.
        I built such a program in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, covering the Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro as well as Augusta and Highland Counties. I am no longer the program coordinator, as that job is now split between 3 people, but I am still working to keep the philosophy of accountability integral to the function of the program.

        Here are the 2 primary points from the PowerPoint presentation I use to explain CIT in my jurisdictions:
        [Blue Ridge] CIT is:
        More than a training program for selected police officers. CIT is a mindset!
        A process of addressing system change for crisis care within our community.

        A Blue Ridge CIT Certified Officer is expected to:
        Respond to people in crisis as individuals.
        Learn about the person, and work with them on the basis of your knowledge, not your assumptions.

        Even if you haven’t seen one yet, I hope you can find it encouraging that such change IS possible and is happening somewhere. Hopefully it will spread in a way that effectively counters stigma and changes the culture of “The Thin Blue Line” for our benefit and theirs.

        If you would like more info on CIT in general or Blue Ridge CIT specifically, feel free to email me: jspurgeon @ vcsb. org [without the spaces, they just help avoid spam mailings]

        • jisun says:

          Without having seen it all, I can say that the little bit you shared does seem like a positive step. Thank you for sharing it, all the best to you.


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