Ride along with Memphis Police Crisis Intervention Officers who answer mental health calls

MEMPHIS, TN - The Memphis Police Department's Crisis Intervention Training Unit is now a model for police departments around the country.
WREG's April Thompson rode along with a CIT officer last year and got an eye-opening look at the dangers of the job.

February of 2017,  WREG got an unprecedented behind the scene ride along with Officer Clinton Langham, one of 275 Memphis Police Officers trained to not only do his job of apprehending suspects, but also to work Crisis Intervention Training or CIT, responding to mental health calls.

"They could be seeing something or hearing voices that are real to them," said Langham.

It can be a real danger to officers.

That's why, since 1988, MPD has partnered with mental health providers for training on how to safely deal with police calls that are mental health issues.

The head of CIT sat down with WREG in 2017 and said it starts with your first approach.

"The CIT officer will normally approach them. The first thing we do, we always talk about talking with your hands, using your hands to talk. So you will see the CIT officers with their hands up high," said Lt. Colonel Vincent Beasley who heads up CIT.

It lets the suspect know the officer is not reaching to their belt for a weapon, something that can be threatening.

MPD said it works. Out of more than 18,000 mental illness related calls in 2016, less than 2-percent of those cases resulted in someone going to jail.
Many went to mental health facilities for help.

" The number of injuries have been down tremendously since CIT came on board. We are not fighting nearly as many individuals. Individuals are not getting hurt. Officers are not getting hurt. Family members are not getting hurt," said Beasley.

But CIT calls are some of the most dangerous, which is why 911 callers are urged to provide as much information on the front end as possible.

"People are coming from all over the world and the nation to be trained on Crisis Intervention. So it's so important to know that our officers are talking individuals off the bridge. They are talking individuals from committing suicide. They are talking individuals out of harming someone," Police Director Mike Rallings told us last year.

CIT Officers doing it all at the risk of putting themselves in the line of danger.

Now officers from as far away as Greenland have been trained on the Memphis CIT model.