participating in Crisis Intervention Training at Glen Oaks Community College.
“It’s all part of an effort to improve our response in the community,” said T. J. Baker, CIT instructor and
director of jail diversion for St. Joseph County. “The CIT program, which started in Memphis, Tennessee in
1988, has moved throughout the United States with over 2,800 training sessions offered since the program’s
inception. We customize the curriculum to fit the local demographics.”
“Our focus is to teach one to identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness,” said Baker. “There are
situations where responders are called to situations where a person is confused, angry or where one wants to
harm his or herself.”
The program emphasizes communication skills to help de-escalate a crisis situation, stressing the importance
of the exchange that occurs during the initial contact.
The 40-hour course involves simulated role-playing scenarios so participants can apply the classroom skills
they learned to real-life situations.
“We use a training simulator as part of the training to make the scenarios seem as realistic as possible,” said
Baker. “Officers respond to real-life scenarios presented to them on a life-size video monitor. They work to
bring the situation under control by getting the individuals to comply with the officer’s request. When
threatened with a gun, knife or physical attack, they have to make on-the-spot decisions on how to continue
to de-escalate the situation, and whether that involves shooting or tazing. The trainer running the video
program makes changes to the scenario depending upon how the officer responds to the crisis situation.”
Sixteen law enforcement/corrections officers participated in last week’s program, and another 11 are
participating this week.
“This really is a long-term solution to crisis response,” said Baker. “If we can de-escalate the person, we can
decrease the number of people who end up in jail or prison systems.”
According to Baker, there are only two full-blown programs of this kind currently being offered throughout the
State of Michigan, the other being in Kalamazoo County.
Person’s interested in participating in CIT training in the future should contact T. J. Baker at the St. Joseph
County Sheriff’s Department at (269) 467-9045.