Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How much would you pay to change the culture of policing? How about 15k?

If you want to change policing, change the way police respond to people with behavioral health issues. Policing skills learned in the crisis intervention training context--de-escalation, communication, strategic thinking, collaboration--are exactly the skills many of us want to see our officers use more of when dealing with the general population.

So how much does it cost to change a culture? More specifically, how much does it cost to train most officers in Kitsap County in at least some basic CIT skills, and encourage more interest in this style of policing? 

In early 2014, the estimate was 333k. That's the amount the Bremerton Police Department requested to provide all officers in the county with some level of CIT training.

In late 2014, the estimate was 117k. That's the amount the County Commissioners approved to get Bremerton started on its program.

Now it's 2015 and we know the answer is far less than that. According to Poulsbo Officer Dave Shurick, who has taken the lead on CIT training for the county, this is what has been done, over the past ten months or so, with less than 16k:

-175 road deputies and officers have been trained in the 8 hour CIT course and 30 officers have received 40-hour CIT training.  

-23 Crisis Intervention Officers (CIO's) have been appointed by law enforcement agencies.

-Cencom/911 has been integrated into crisis response.  All CIO's on the road at any given time are seen on the Mobile Communication Terminal with a touch of a button.  Their train-the-trainer training is around the corner and 911 CIT will be integrated into their basic call taker/dispatcher training.

-Where there were less than full trust amongst county agencies in the past, we are now seeing multi-agency cooperation and collaboration. Representatives from Harrison Hospital, Kitsap Mental Health, NAMI and ICP sit with Crisis Intervention Officers at their meetings and discuss issues and best practices.  

Now: some of the reason so much progress has been made with so little money is because Officer Shurick--and many other officers in the CIO program--have done more with less and been extremely restrained with taxpayer money. And, of course, the CIO program should be expanded, and we have yet to give CIT training to every officer in Kitsap County. 

But the larger point remains: big changes in policing can be made with a relatively small amount of money. Culture change depends on police leadership, dedicated officers, and people outside of police departments who want to make a difference. Our thanks go out to all of them.