“This training has given us more tools:” Milwaukee Police members complete CIT class

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- All too often Milwaukee Police officers respond to volatile situations, dealing with them can be hard -- but it's even more challenging when they come across someone through a mental health crisis.

Since 2006, Milwaukee officers have been going through the Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT training class.

But ever since Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed by an officer recently, there has been heightened awareness in the community and even for some officers about this training. It focuses on giving officers the skills they need to properly and delicately interact with someone dealing with a mental health crisis.

"Many times we get dispatched a call that will say the person has not taken their medication and is out of control," said Milwaukee Police Lieutenant, Karen Dubis.

From a mock tavern, where a schizophrenic individual is hearing voices and wanting to medicate by drinking, to an issue where a veteran with post traumatic stress disorder is having a flashback after being triggered by the neighbor's dog -- Milwaukee Police officers encounter an array of situations.

"8-9,000 times a year our officers are dealing with issues involving people with mental health crisis," said Milwaukee Police Chief, Ed Flynn.

These officers volunteered for this training to sharpen their skills.

"It helps us identify those people and what steps we can take to de-escalate their situations," said Joshua Post, with Milwaukee Police Department.

"We teach active listening and de-escalation skills take someone who is at a very heightened level of crisis and bring them down and we do that by our verbalization when we approach we are using calm voices we try to reduce stimulation we try to turn our radios low. Turn our squad lights off and have one person doing the talking," said Dubis.

In addition to role play, clinicians and doctors offered their expertise in how best to respond to a person with a mental crisis.

Friday, November 21st, 46 sworn members of the Milwaukee Police Department and 7 members from other agencies graduated from the training program. They're armed with practical information on how best to ensure the safety of both the officer and person dealing with mental health issues.

"Now I feel this training has given us more tools, more avenues to deal with these people as well as resources we can offer them," said Post.

Police Chief Ed Flynn says the department is going to make CIT training part of police recruit's basic training going forward. That will add another month to the school.

Currently the department does in-service training where officers are given 16 hours of the basics they need.

Training for volunteers will also continue.