The director of the Portland Police Bureau's Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) program spoke out publicly for the first time last week, telling a meeting of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at Legacy Emanuel Hospital that all of Portland's cops are now trained in the discipline.
CIT was first established in Portland in 1995, but made mandatory for all uniformed officers in late 2006, following the controversial death in police custody of James Chasse Jr., who was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
CIT Director Liesbeth Gerritsen said 504 police officers and sergeants were trained by December 2008—although it's not yet clear whether expanding the program has actually worked. For example, news emerged two weeks ago that Officer Christopher Humphreys—one of the officers involved in the Chasse death—is now the potential subject of an excessive force lawsuit by a mentally ill woman whom he is alleged to have assaulted just days after going through CIT ["Bad Apple Reputation," News, Jan 29].
Central Precinct Officer Betty Woodward accompanied Gerritsen in the presentation. Woodward estimated that 60 percent of emergency calls to the precinct involve mental illness in some form.
Gerritsen admitted that "not all" of the officers "got" the training, and that she had no way of measuring CIT's success. However, she did claim to be optimistic about its effects in reducing officers' stigma around mental health issues.
"You can train somebody to do something different—but my highest hopes for the training was to change hearts and minds. I think what makes the difference is in here," she said, gesturing to her chest. "What is your intention when you go out on that call?"
An audience member expressed concern that newly trained CIT officers might be less effective at handling crisis calls than those with more experience at using the training.
"The logistics of it now are, there's going to be a call and it's going to be luck of the draw," Gerritsen conceded. "Whoever shows up, they'll be CIT trained. But there is no 'Wait! I want the CIT person who, you know, sat in the front row!'"