(L-R) Sgt. Michael Boyer, CFC Michael Labanowski, Jr, CO Melissa Dodson, and  CFC Nick Alioto. 

Leonardtown, MD— St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office deputies and correctional officers respond to calls involving people in some sort of mental health crisis on a daily basis, sometimes even multiple times during a single shift.  Recently, three correctional officers, Correctional Officer First Class Nick Alioto, Correctional Officer First Class Michael Labanowski, Jr, and Correctional Officer Melissa Dodson along with deputies Sergeant Michael Boyer, and Corporal Anthony Whipkey learned how to manage those types of calls better through Critical Intervention Team (CIT) training. That dedication on the part of these officers brings the total number of deputies trained in CIT to 38, along with ten correctional officers and one captain.

CIT training is a 40-hour program that brings together law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency departments, and individuals with mental illness and their families in an effort to improve emergency response to people in crisis. It is a model for what community policing should include.

CIT improves officer and civilian safety and gives law enforcement enhanced tools to efficiently and safely perform their jobs. The training provides a means to share the expertise of mental health professionals and experienced officers in the community with deputies; training that can serve to assist, advise, and support those deputies who find themselves faced with a challenging situation. This training provides officers with a new skillset, specifically, verbal de-escalation, which is statistically proven to diffuse potentially fatal encounters. In addition, during the course, trainees are also given the opportunity to have in-person interactions with persons who have experienced mental illness, along with family members and others who are supporting someone with a mental illness. CIT training is scenario-based, which gives deputies the opportunity to hone their newly-acquired skills in real-time crisis situations while receiving feedback from teachers and peers.

Sgt. Mike Boyer, who attended the training, said, “I am appreciative that I was afforded the opportunity to attend this training, and I know the information I have learned will help to make interactions safer for myself, fellow law enforcement officers, the community, individuals and their families.”

Sheriff Tim Cameron adds, “Police work is not about arresting people; it is about listening to people and solving problems. The Crisis Intervention Team Training is the gold standard in de-escalation techniques. It helps our officers to improve their problem-solving skills through in-person interactions, mentoring by senior officers, and partnerships with mental health providers. This training is an integral part of keeping the community and its residents safe.”

For the first time in May, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office will be hosting their own Crisis Intervention Team training in St. Mary’s County, in addition to adding crisis workers to holiday patrols and maximum deployment details throughout the holiday season, where traditionally there is an increase in individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.