Part two of a three-part column
We have heard stories about loved ones being abused by staff in detention facilities, including those having intellectual disabilities that come in contact with law enforcement. Exploring the realities of these abuses, I wanted to look for entities with members working hard at being proactive towards the prevention of law enforcement acting too quickly by placing their hands on those they come in contact with in response to a call and are later incarcerated. Patti Kressly has taken the responsibility in her actions to change a culture of abuse in these CJS entities.
Lucky Rosenbloom (LR): Ms. Kressly, What is your background, and what is CIT [Crisis Intervention Team]?
Patti Kressly (PK): I am a retired police officer from South St. Paul Police Department. I have a masters’ degree in counseling psychology. I have been training CIT since 2006. I have experience working with people with severe persistent mental illness.
CIT training is a collaborative effort to train law enforcement and emergency responders to recognize when someone is in a crisis and use verbal skills to attempt to de-escalate the situation when possible. CIT helps the responder look beyond the behaviors and look for alternative solutions to placing a person with mental illness in jail and looking at treatment options.
Teaching them that a person with a mental health issue did not choose to have this condition and sometimes they are doing the best they can with what they have. CIT is based off the Memphis Model and now has become internationally known for training officers.
LR: How does CIT serve to prevent physical abuse in both adult and juvenile correctional facilities?
PK: Training officers, both in the adult and juvenile correctional system, CIT gives the officers communication skills to try to verbally de-escalate the situation. Officers are taught to take more time, talk the situation through, and hopefully end the situation without physical means.
CIT is not always 100 percent effective, but a lower level of force is often attempted first. In the training we try to respect the dignity, cultural diversity, and the worth of all persons. Pro-crisis uses professional actors to role play crisis situations. The actors give the student a realistic but safe environment to practice their skills. This technique is very successful.
We also bring in advocates who are in recovery to talk about their mental health issues. It gives the responders a different view of what these folks are going through with their illness.
LR: How does CIT serve to prevent police brutality in our neighborhoods?
PK: I would love to report that CIT would replace the need for officers to sometimes use physical force, but the truth is it does not work 100 percent of the time. Sometimes for the safety of the person and others around, physical contact is necessary.
LR: What’s important about the work you’re doing and how does this serve our community?
PK: I believe in this training. I believe that CIT can improve emergency responders and correctional officers’ response to crisis for the safety of all parties. When I hear about outcomes where officers have talked a person out of a dangerous situation, I am very proud to be part of the positive changes.
It’s my understanding that our local corrections and law enforcement agencies are going through this CIT training. We as a community must demand this kind of training in the best interest of our loved ones that may not always have a voice once incarcerated. Join me in this fight by contacting me at the information below. Don’t miss part three.
Lucky Rosenbloom welcomes reader responses to 651-917-1720, or email him at [email protected].