The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program is a community
partnership working with mental health consumers and family members.
Our goal is to set a standard of excellence for our officers with
respect to treatment of individuals with mental illness. This is
done by establishing individual responsibility for each event and
overall accountability for the results. Officers will be provided
with the best quality training available, they will be part of a
specialized team which can respond to a crisis at any time and they
will work with the community to resolve each situation in a manner
that shows concern for the citizen’s well being.
In 1988, the Memphis Police Department joined in partnership with
the Memphis Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI),
mental health providers, and two local universities (the University
of Memphis and the University of Tennessee) in organizing, training,
and implementing a specialized unit. This unique and creative
alliance was established for the purpose of developing a more
intelligent, understandable, and safe approach to mental crisis
events. This community effort was the genesis of the Memphis Police
Department’s Crisis Intervention Team.
The CIT is made up of volunteer officers from each
Uniform Patrol Precinct. CIT officers are called upon to respond to
crisis calls that present officers face-to-face with complex issues
relating to mental illness. CIT officers also perform their regular
duty assignment as patrol officers.
The Memphis Police Department has approximately 225 CIT officers who
participate in specialized training under the instructional
supervision of mental health providers, family advocates, and mental
health consumer groups. Due to the training, CIT officers can, with
confidence, offer a more humane and calm approach. These officers
maintain a 24 hour, seven day a week coverage.
The CIT Model has been instrumental in offering:
Special trained officers to respond immediately to crisis
Ongoing training of CIT officers at no expense to the City
Establishments of partnerships of police, National Alliance
on Mental Illness/Memphis, mental health providers, and
mental health consumers.
The Crisis Intervention Team program is a community effort
enjoining both the police and the community together for common
goals of safety, understanding, and service to the mentally ill and
their families. It is to these goals the Memphis Police Department
The CIT program provides an avenue for the development of community
partnerships and the collaboration of working together for community
interest of service and care. CIT is about doing the right thing for
the right reasons. CIT recognizes a special population that deserves
special care, treatment, and service. CIT is not about fame,
fortune, nor glory, but rather, one of honor and service.
As an innovative program, the CIT model encourages communities,
families, law enforcement officers, and mental health professionals
to act as a compass for consumers of mental illness. An increase in
illegal narcotic/alcohol abuse and the “deinstitutionalzation” of
mentally ill citizens has caused many to become homeless and
potentially more violent which increases the chances of involvement
with law enforcement. This increases the possibility for excessive
force complaints and the inevitable backlash from the community.
Traditional police methods, misinformation, and a lack of
sensitivity cause fear and frustration for consumers and their
families. Too often, officers’ respond to crisis calls where they
felt at a disadvantage or were placed in a no-win situation.
Unfortunately, it is usually after a tragedy that police departments
look for change. As a proactive program, CIT acts as a model
committed to preventing tragic situations and finding “win-win”
solutions for all persons concerned.
A response to mentally ill crisis events must be immediate. The
National Alliance on Mental Illness/Memphis and the Memphis
Police Department agree that an “immediate response” is preferable
to that of specialized mental health workers on call or a mobile
crisis van response. By offering an immediate humane and calm
approach, CIT officers reduce the likelihood of physical
confrontations and enhance better patient care. As such, the CIT
program is a beginning for the necessary adjustment that law
enforcement must make from a traditional police responses to a more
humane treatment of individuals with mental illness.
Since the CIT program began in Memphis, the citizens and the
criminal justice system of Memphis have experienced significant
benefits of the program. Some of the benefits of the program are
Crisis response is immediate
Arrests and use of force has decreased
Underserved consumers are identified by officers and
provided with care
Patient violence and use of restraints in the ER has
Officers are better trained and educated in verbal
Officer’s injuries during crisis events have declined
Officer recognition and appreciation by the community has
Less “victimless” crime arrests
Decrease in liability for health care issues in the jail
National advocates, such as The National Alliance on Mental
Illness and The American Association of Suicidology have recognized the
CIT program for distinguished service to the mentally ill. NAMI
(Memphis) credits CIT with saving lives and preventing injuries,
both for consumers and officers. Officer injury data has decreased
by seven-fold since the program inception. University of Tennessee
studies have shown that the CIT program has resulted in a decrease
in arrests rates for the mentally ill, an impressive rate of
diversion into the health care system, and a resulting low rate of
mental illness in our jails.
Most importantly, CIT officers give consumers a sense of dignity.
This dignity generates a new respect and outlook on the police and
the mental health systems.
Critical Incident Services
In May of 1996, Former Director Winfrey announced the creation
of the Critical Incident Services Program (CIS) to establish a comprehensive stress management program
for Police Services personnel. The CIS program utilizes officers as
under the auspices of trained psychologists for crisis debriefings.
Debriefing guidelines, both voluntary and mandatory, are being
utilized to assist officers and police personnel after a crisis
event. Experiences may include a traumatizing scene such as a
critical injury or death of a child, accidents involving fatalities,
events where an officer has been placed in extreme peril, and any
officer involved shooting.
On one occasion the CIS program provided much needed services to
several officers during a traumatic and critical event in which a
fellow officer was slain in the line of duty.
Since the inception of the CIS program, the Memphis Police
Department has responded to inquiries from other law enforcement
agencies seeking assistance and information.