Norman Police, State Department Of Mental Health Explain How They Prioritize Crisis Calls

Wednesday, July 6th 2022, 6:58 pm

NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The State Department of Mental Health has doubled the number of officers on the Crisis Intervention Team.

One metro police department has made a targeted effort to make sure its officers are prepared to handle any crisis.

A little less than half of the officers who walk in and out of the Norman Police Department doors are crisis intervention team members. 

As one of the advocates for the training program, some Norman officers believe the path of that person's life can be dependent on how police handle the call. 

"Of course, any crisis you train for is more easily averted. We come out when people are in crisis,” Norman Police Department Lt. Cary Bryant said.

Police answer distressed 911 calls and handle distressed situations daily. They often deal with people experiencing their worst day. 

"Law enforcement are often the first responders into situations that involve behavioral health situations,” Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services director of communications Jeff Dismukes said.   

The state mental health department’s 2021 goal was achieved this year with the addition of 300 police officers statewide to the Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT. That means an additional forty-hour training offered by

Police departments are offering 40 hours of additional training. 

"I can tell you it's something we use every day,” Bryant said. “I have been involved in very intense crisis situations and I've been involved in crisis situations that weren't that intense but they're all important.” 

Some of the training includes de-escalation techniques to mental health, suicide prevention and substance abuse.

"Norman is a great example of a law enforcement agency that's really embraced this concept," said Dismukes.

Departments involved in the training usually aim for about 25% of officers trained. Norman is sitting at just under 40% of its force, but it wants to grow those numbers in hopes each crisis call ends with a peaceful outcome.  

"Which can, in turn, begin their recovery. You're not cured of mental illness. You're not cured of substance abuse, but you can recover,” Bryant said. “Recovery starts with that officer and de-escalation.”

Norman police said the officers who aren't CIT members also receive some of the training while in the academy.