In January 2005, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement mandated that all cadets receive 24 hours of de-escalation/crisis intervention training. Officer Frank Webb, of the Houston Police Department, was the discipline chair of the committee that developed that curriculum. The Commission recently changed that mandate to 16 hours. The Houston Police Department exceeds this mandate by 24 hours providing its cadets with 40 hours of CIT training (Mental Health Peace Officer Class). Providing the cadets with the 40-hour class started in March of 2007. The cadets cover all of the learning objectives of the 40-hour class for veteran CIT officers and graduate as CIT officers.
Emergency communications personnel (call takers and dispatchers) are crucial to the success of a CIT program. Call-takers have to code appropriate calls as CIT calls and dispatchers have to dispatch those calls to the CIT trained officers. It is important they understand the objectives of the program, liability issues related to not coding appropriate calls with the CIT designator, and the liability of not dispatching an available CIT officer to a CIT coded call. The Houston Police Department provides all call-takers and dispatchers with 16 hours of training. In addition to explaining the goals and objectives of the CIT program and their roles and responsibilities in it, call takers and dispatchers receive basic training about the major mental illnesses. Emphasis is placed on depression and suicide and how to talk with a suicidal caller.
Increasingly, correctional facilities are providing crisis intervention training for their employees. The Harris County Jail, for example, has started a CIT program for correctional officers. The Houston Police Department has short-term jails that are holding facilities until the prisoners can be transported to the Harris County jail system. Houston Police Department jailers and medical personnel receive 8 hours of CIT training and four hours of annual CIT refresher training. The training focuses on de-escalation techniques, suicide prevention and a concise explanation of mental illness.
All CIT officers in uniformed services are required to take an eight-hour annual refresher class titled “Advanced CIT.” The content of the class changes each year, depending on needs identified the previous year. The following are examples of topics covered over the years:
Bipolar Disorder Refresher
Youth and Adosescents
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Adult Protective Services
Houston Crisis Helpline
- Substance Abuse
- Homeless Outreach
Texas mandated crisis intervention/de-escalation training for all peace officers in the state. This legislation, The Bob Meadours Act, Senate Bill 1473, took effect September 1, 2005. All Texas peace officers had to complete 16 hours of crisis intervention/de-escalation training by September 1, 2009. The Houston Police Department provided this training an average of once a week for two years to train all classified personnel on the department. The Houston Police Department also provided this training to several law enforcement agencies across the state.
Houston has a hybrid CIT program. It is comprised of veteran patrol officers and cadets. The program is voluntary for the veteran officers and mandatory for the cadets. The training is the same for both groups. The class is taught collaboratively by members of the Houston Police Department and mental health professionals from Houston/Harris County. The major topics of instruction are: schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, suicide, active listening, de-escalation techniques, the Texas Mental Health Code, substance abuse, and officer safety. An important aspect of the training is role-playing. Students put into practice the techniques taught in the classroom. Each role-play is critiqued from an officer safety and crisis response perspective. Another important aspect of the training is a presentation by a mental health consumer who talks about his experiences with mental illness. This person puts a human face on this devastating illness. Houston’s CIT program is based on the Memphis, Tennessee model.
Texas has over 1,200 police chiefs. All chiefs receive 40 hours of training every two years. This training, Texas Chief of Police Leadership Series, is provided by the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT) at Sam Houston State University. The state mandated 16-hour CIT training was part of the 2006-2007 training cycle. Because of the statewide leadership role of the Houston Police Department regarding CIT training, Senior Officer Frank Webb was selected to provide this training to the chiefs.