HATTIESBURG, MISS. - Friday afternoon, sixteen Pine Belt officers graduated from a new training program they say will "save lives." The officers participated in the Crisis Intervention Training program which teaches them how to de-escalate dangerous situations with suspects who have mental disorders.
“This program will save somebody's life, there's no doubt in my mind,” Mississippi’s Director of Public Safety, Marshall Fisher said.
Recent graduate of the program Gavin Guy, the Chief of the Petal School District Police Department says patience is key when dealing with a suspect who has a mental illness.
“It's just another tool for us to put under our belt and learn about the mental illness, and also be more patient with them,” Guy explained. “The most important part for me is to learn to be patient with them, and I think doing the role play and scenarios kind of opened my eyes up a little bit about how to sit back, listen to them, and try to get some help for them.”
Fisher says this is vital lesson for officers to know, being that law enforcement is starting to get more calls concerning someone with a mental illness.
“If you talk to every sheriff in the state of Mississippi and every police chief, they will tell you that they deal with mental health issues on a daily basis,” Fisher said.
This rising number of altercations involving someone dealing with a mental health illness caused the Hattiesburg Police Department to double the number officers with C.I.T. training on duty.
“Currently, we have a C.I.T. officer on every shift at the police department. Now, since we had graduation today we will have two on every shift that are C.I.T. trained,” Public Information Officer for the Hattiesburg Police Department, Latosha Myers said.
Because in the end, the Hattiesburg Police Department and all law enforcement agencies want to make sure to keep all citizens safe.
“The goal of the Hattiesburg Police Department is to continually strive to protect and serve our citizens,” Myers said.