Norman police officials plan to make Crisis Intervention Team training mandatory for all officers

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The Norman Police Department is currently in the process of making Crisis Intervention Team training mandatory, saying all new officers moving forward will have it.

However, one local therapist says Oklahoma is in need of across-the-board changes when it comes to mental health.

“We can’t bring Bennie back, but we can change how the ‘Bennie’s’ going forward are addressed,” said Tasia Mendiola, a licensed professional counselor.

One week after 60-year-old Bennie Edwards was shot and killed by Oklahoma City police, one metro therapist, Tasia Mendiola, is pleading for change.

“Let’s always have a crisis intervention trained police officer ready to go at all calls,” Mendiola said.

A report by KFOR shows just 158 Oklahoma City police officers have Crisis Intervention Team training, or CIT, which is a program that’s voluntary.

But, just down Interstate 35, the Norman Police Department is hoping to have all of their officers CIT certified.

Photo goes with story
Bennie Edwards, a homeless man, was shot and killed by Oklahoma City police outside a strip of businesses. Officers say he was armed with a knife, but Edwards’ relatives say he suffered from a mental illness and was scared.

Deputy Police Chief Ricky Jackson says it’s now a requirement in their academy.

“We make it mandatory. If you make it mandatory, it means that you’re going to at least be exposed to it, you understand the ends and the outs; the strategies around CIT, the benefits. So that if you run across someone in a crisis, you have an idea on how to deal with it, versus no idea whatsoever,” said Deputy Jackson.

Right now in Norman, 36 percent of all officers have CIT training. While in Oklahoma City, 25 percent of officers are trained, a percentage Mendiola says needs to change.

“That needs to be a part of the generalized training because this is the community you’re serving. But right now we don’t have enough training and it’s voluntary,” Mendiola said.

This particular training is crucial in allowing officers to have a standardized approach in dealing with those crises, which is a benefit the Norman Police Department already sees.

“Through the CIT training, we’re able now to go in and deescalate again through the strategies that are learned through the CIT training. So, it’s been very helpful in our ability to provide safe remedies to those that are in crisis,” Jackson said.

So far this year, Norman has had two officer-involved shootings. Neither of the shootings were deadly. While out of Oklahoma City’s 11 officer-involved shootings, seven were deadly.

Story written by KFOR reporter Brittany Spears

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