On Monday, May 22, the Southern Maryland Crisis Intervention Teams announced Sheriff Tim Cameron as the first ever CIT Leader of the Year for the Southern Maryland Region.
“Sheriff Cameron is the first law enforcement executive in Southern Maryland to train his officers and recognize the importance of serving an often-overlooked community,” said Karyn Black, LCPC, Core Service Agency Director, Charles County Department of Health. “Sheriff Cameron’s compassion and dedication to treating all citizens with respect and dignity are evident in his commitment to personnel and resources and in his giving of his personal time in seeing that CIT is a priority for his command.”
Sheriff Cameron’s commitment to CIT training began in 2005 with the Maryland State Office of Forensics who delivered basic mental health training for St. Mary’s County deputies.
A few years later, the sheriff’s office continued its dedication to CIT by adopting the Memphis Model, which is considered the gold standard response for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. It consists of a large-scale collaborative program between the community and law enforcement and includes a 40-hour advanced officer training component.
In addition to the award, the week offered another unprecedented event. The 40-hour training component was held in St. Mary’s County. The initiative was worked on for several years by the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, working in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, and the Charles County Core Service Agency.
St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office previously sent officers to Montgomery County for this training. By bringing the training to Southern Maryland, participants had the opportunity to interact with local and regional behavioral health resources. In addition, more officers could attend the training, significantly increasing the capacity of local jurisdictions with CIT trained officers.
The training provided law enforcement personnel and emergency communications dispatchers from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, La Plata Police Department and Charles County Sheriff’s Office with the skills to assist persons who are experiencing a mental health crisis, who have a mental health crisis, who have a mental health issue or who have an intellectual disability. In many cases, they assist individuals who suffer from several illnesses compounded.
|Sheriff Cameron & Cpl. Alexander |
“The recent 40-hour CIT training course provided an in-depth look into the many facets, problems and issues citizens of our county deal with on a daily basis,” Corporal David Alexander said. “The training placed officers in real-world scenarios, covering a wide array of situations our sworn and correctional officers face at any given time. The peer- and panel-judged scenarios were an effective way to expose officers to the varying issues they deal with daily.”
Responding to these calls can be challenging and complex for everyone involved, from the dispatchers who answer the call, to the deputies who arrive on scene, to the correctional officers who work with the individuals far beyond the initial call.
CIT offers graduates a new way to deal with non-traditional police calls for mental health services. The new approach helps to de-escalate tense situations for both the individual and law enforcement.
|Sheriff Cameron & CFC Ardire|
“I learned useful tools that I can utilize on a daily basis,” said Correctional Officer First Class Kristie Ardire, “It's truly all about helping people in crisis and using compassion and communication to assist the public. It's about slowing things down and really doing community policing.”
“There were many exercises and scenarios which were useful to community policing,” Ardire added. “We did on-site visits to Pathways and On Our Own to learn more about local individuals’ mental illnesses and how we can better communicate to help them when they are in a crisis situation. I think every officer should be CIT trained.”