DETROIT – Detroit police are expanding its crisis intervention unit in hopes of avoiding using lethal force, especially when handling those suffering from mental illness.
“Any opportunity that we have when we can save lives, or we can reduce the risk to the officers, we’re gonna take that opportunity,” said Detroit Police Chief James White.
Expect to see more of a presence from CIT officers with new uniforms, car decals and green lights rather than the traditional blue and red.
“Doing this, I really feel like I can make a difference because I see myself being in this position to de-escalate things better than the average officer would because of training I’ve received,” said CIT officer Antonio Gholson.
The team will undergo new training methods, including using alternative tools to take a person down, not out. One of the many examples is the Bola Wrap, which is just as startling as gunfire when deployed.
This expansion is something White said is needed. Detroit police receive about 64 mental health calls daily, so they’re exploring the possibility of new tools that will stop someone before things get deadly.
“We have about 17,000 runs a year that we respond to,” White said.
De-escalation and situational awareness tools were shown on Wednesday, partly in the form of a robot allowing negotiators to speak to suspects in barricaded gunmen situations. While some of the new equipment has yet to be officially approved for use, the force is growing from 18 CIT members to about 30.
“This is a huge problem for our community and our country and it’s time that we got off the sidelines with it and started really having serious conversations about it,” said White.