PROBLEMATIC BEHAVIOR OR ACTIVITY
The City of Bend Police Department was observing an increase in calls involving people who were experiencing symptoms of mental illness. These calls would often require longer amounts of time than a more traditional call for service.
IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY
When the patrol officers were responding to the crisis calls, they were often required to spend several hours with the individual experiencing a mental health crisis. As a result, the number of officers on the streets available to respond to calls decreased and caused officer and community safety concerns. The creation of the Community Response Team allows for specially trained officers to respond to the call so that patrol officers can return to the community.
The Community Response Team comprises three officers who have received Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training as well as training in mental health systems and verbal de-escalation skills to respond to active mental health crisis calls. The CRT unit works Tuesday through Friday in 10-hour shifts. The timing for the shifts was determined by analyzing data that demonstrated an increase in the number of calls related to mental health crisis during these days and hours. The CRT officers respond to crisis events as they happen. They also circle back to talk with community members after the initial contact, even if the call came during their off hours. This follow-up has been met with positive feedback from the people who experienced the crisis and their family members.
BASED ON RESEARCH
The City of Bend Police Chief contacted many Mental Health Response Units —both in and beyond Oregon—-and developed a unit for the Bend community.
This unit has no real budget impact, given that the officers were already employees of the department and help cover for patrol when they are available to assist. Local mental health agencies provided most of the additional training the officers have received, at no cost to the department.
This is a relatively new unit, but evidence has already shown a decrease in the number of repeat calls from those who make historically frequent use of the 911 system. The CRT officers believe that this is a result of the relationships being built among the community, the frequent users, and the CRT officers.
CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS
The officers chosen for this assignment are passionate about the mission of the CIT program. Having the right officers in those positions for the right reasons is critical to the program’s success.
Staffing the unit with officers who believe in the program is a must—as is communication within the ranks, so that patrol officers understand the role of the unit and how they can support each other.