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News 9 Rides Along With OCPD Crisis Intervention Team

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

A recent report from the Guardian and the Washington Post said Oklahoma has the highest rate of deadly police encounters in the nation.

Many of the individuals killed had mental health issues, so we asked about the special training officers are using in the field.

Oklahoma City Police allowed News 9 to profile its Crisis Intervention Team in action. All OCPD officers have mental health training, but the Crisis Intervention Team is specially trained according to standards set by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Sgt. Mark Nelson's first call during the News 9 ride-along was to a crisis. A woman was screaming in a motel lobby and the motel owner said she stole something.

“There are a couple of officers there already, but they're asking for a CIT officer,” Nelson explained.

Nelson is a CIT Officer, part of the Crisis Intervention Team. Oklahoma City Police started its CIT team in 2002.

“The department has placed a premium on training Oklahoma City officers on how to deal with all variations of mental health issues,” Nelson said.

OCPD now has 275 officers trained in CIT and all are in the patrol division, which means basically half of that division has the special training. This year, OCPD has already had more than 5,300 crisis intervention team calls.

“Help them understand that we are here to help them and it doesn't have to be a forceful encounter,” Nelson added.

The training teaches how to approach someone showing signs of paranoia, suicidal thoughts, PTSD or any other crisis. In the ride-along case, police took the woman to the hospital to get help rather than to jail.

“We are not just here to resolve a problem, we are here to get you help,” Nelson told News 9. “It makes it very fulfilling and this program is really second to none, it's fantastic.”

Oklahoma City Police have helped teach more than 45 other departments across the state in Crisis Intervention Team training.

OCPD also brings in people who have different mental illnesses to talk and interact with officers so they get one-on-one training on how to approach someone with a similar condition.

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