PETAL, Miss. (WHPM-TV)- Petal school resource officers and members of Pine Belt Mental Health Resources held a Crisis Intervention Team graduation ceremony Friday afternoon.
The training teaches officers how to use care with the individuals living with a mental illness.
School Resource Officer Clay Johnson knew he wanted to be a police officer when he was 21 years old.
"I took stent where I came out of law enforcement, then I got back into law enforcement and I did a couple years on the road, but my passion was for kids and to make a difference with our youth," said Johnson.
Today, Johnson and 12 other school resource officers from different districts graduate from a CIT training class.
"CIT is a pre-arrest diversion program for individuals that are living with mental illness. When law enforcement officers encounter someone that's in crisis on the streets they are taught how to safely deescalate them and keep them out of jail and get them connected to treatment," said CIT training coordinator Linda Foley.
Chief Gavin Guy of Petal School District and Pine Belt Mental Health Resources constructed a forty hour course, guiding interactions between school law enforcement and those living with a mental illness.
"Getting that training and having partnership with other law enforcement and mental healthcare, and just having that partnership is just great," said Guy.
School resource officers walk away with not only a certificate for completing the class, but a newfound knowledge to close the gap between the mentally ill and law enforcement.
"We try to be a leader when it comes to safety and security and I'm very proud to have six of our school resource officer present for a week long training as they work on their skills in order to be able to deal with crisis intervention type things in their setting in the schools," said Petal School District Superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon.
In total, 13 school resource officers graduated from the course from different school districts. There were six from the Petal school district, two from Laurel school district, one from Forrest County HS school district, one from Perry county school district, and three from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.