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Friday, May 10, 2013

Training Police Officers to Dealing with Mentally Ill People

Police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, who are part of the crisis intervention team (CIT), are trained to interact with mentally ill citizens who may pose a risk to themselves, a police officer, or the community. Members of CIT receive training through virtual hallucination software, which lets trainees step inside the world of mentally ill persons and gives police officers insight into their state of mind. Through earphones and special viewing goggles connected to software, the officer can see and feel what a mentally ill person might experience during an emergency situation. During training, the officers are asked to perform a task while wearing the earphones and peering into the apparatus. The commands are hardly distinguishable amid various voices and virtual images the software bombards the officer with. This helps officers realize that when they are dealing with someone with a mental illness of that nature, the person might not hear their commands. According to Sam Cochran of the Memphis Police Department and CIT coordinator, “It is one thing for a person to articulate that he is hearing voices and maybe seeing things, but if you don’ t really understand what that means, or experience what that means, you don’t really understand the complexities of trying to interact with an individual who may be experiencing that” (McKay, 2007, p. 38).


Pynes, J. E.  (2009). Human resources management for public and nonprofit organizations: A strategic approach (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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