November 19, 2021

Crisis Intervention Teams

How can improv training help train law enforcement?

-Bob Melley, Director of BizDev

Over the past twenty-plus years, Improv Asylum’s training division has worked with every type of group imaginable, and we have helped teams find their mojo across just about every industry. Groups from Finance, Legal, HR, C Suite leadership, New Hires, MBA programs and from college freshmen to military veterans and service members and from non-profits, start-ups, leading educational institutions to Fortune 50 companies, there aren’t too many that we have not positively impacted.

Some of the most rewarding work we have ever experienced is in the public safety and law enforcement arena. And to that end, our involvement with the great work of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program. The CIT program is an innovative community partnership between law enforcement, mental health professionals, addiction specialists, individuals impacted by Behavioral Health (mental illness, developmental disabilities, and addiction), and their advocates. In addition to increasing positive community relationships, CIT training has been proven to reduce the severity and frequency of tragic incidents for both law enforcement and community members. CIT programs equip departments to more efficiently utilize criminal justice resources, increase crisis response time, and increase officer confidence.

The full day of crisis negotiation skills and de-escalation, including realistic role-play, helps cement the knowledge acquired and allows a space for officers and professionals to incorporate what they are learning.

Our performers and instructors depict real-life scenarios, scenarios that public safety workers will likely face in their day-to-day responsibilities. The CIT training program gives those folks, already burdened in a high-stress environment, the ability to effectively handle situations that may arise by having prior “experience” in how best to diffuse, de-escalate and reduce any harm that Law Enforcement and Mental Health professionals, and those that they are interacting with, may face.

A few testimonials from the professionals that have gone through the CIT training program:

“[Officers are] more knowledgeable about how to deal with parties with emotional and mental health issues. They have the confidence in their ability to solve cases and willingness to listen to others’ voices other than their own (before it was I know what I’m doing). CIT lets you breathe and think outside the box you’ve been living in – opens the door and leads to better communication as a whole.”

—Sergeant Gonzalez, Chelsea Police Department

“It was eye-opening. Not having any background in that information I was able to learn how to deal with people in crisis instead of just getting them to the hospital, and checking off a box.”

—Officer Gil Ynostrozan, Billerica Police

“This course was one of the best that I have taken. The job of a police officer has changed greatly in my 28 years. CIT training should be a component of all police academies. Many of these topics should be offered at in-service for the veteran officer. I am reviewing my notes so that I can develop tools to take with me in the field.”

-Officer John McCarthy, Beverly Police Department, 28 years of Service

“Officers that have attended CIT training display more awareness and compassion. Have officers who will see things differently in terms of social content”

-Sgt. Crisafi, Winthrop

“Officers that have attended CIT training have more patience. They understand the person is not being confrontational for no reason.”

-2nd Sergeant, Stoneham

The CIT training is not a one-stop-shop, it is not a one-time program that one can just check off.

This training is an ongoing effort that every law enforcement officer, mental health professional, and addiction specialist should participate in every few months if possible.

And, as we have worked across just about every industry, and having experienced how we affect people and cultures, I think I can say that our work in the public safety arena is not only one of the most rewarding, but also one that we are most proud of. Our hats are off to these hard-working, selfless folks that are dedicated to keeping us all safe.