The crisis intervention team (CIT) model is a widely implemented police-based program to improve officers’ responses to individuals with behavioral disorders. The authors examined levels of force used by officers with or without CIT training and disposition decisions in a large sample of encounters with individuals whom they suspected of having a serious mental illness, a drug or an alcohol problem, or a developmental disability.
A total of 180 officers (91 with CIT training and 89 without) in six departments reported on 1,063 encounters, including level of force and disposition (resolution at the scene, referral or transport to services, or arrest).
CIT training status was generally not predictive of level of force, although CIT-trained officers were significantly more likely to report verbal engagement or negotiation as the highest level of force used (odds ratio [OR]=2.00, p=.016). For CIT-trained officers, referral or transport was a more likely outcome (OR=1.70, p=.026) and arrest was less likely (OR=.47, p=.007) than for officers without CIT training; these findings were most pronounced when physical force was necessary. Analyses of disposition differences by officers’ perceptions of subjects’ primary problem (for example, mental illness only versus a drug or an alcohol problem) found some effects of CIT training status.
CIT training appears to increase the likelihood of referral or transport to mental health services and decrease the likelihood of arrest during encounters with individuals thought to have a behavioral disorder. Research should address subject- and system-level outcomes that complement this early evidence of successful prebooking jail diversion.