The UT Police Department recently trained its first group of officers in a program designed to help them identify and assist student veterans in crisis.
About a dozen UT police officers, all military veterans, went through veterans Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training on November 9.
Troy Lane, associate vice chancellor for public safety and chief of police, said he learned about the veterans CIT program several months ago at the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police conference. A retired Army veteran, now a police captain with the police department in Apex, North Carolina, developed the specialized crisis intervention program to help deal with issues arising from his city’s growing veteran population.
Lane said he saw value in using the program here.
“Being a veteran myself, recognizing our growing veteran population at UT and the uniqueness of their experience, I knew it would help us serve the campus,” said Lane, who served in the Army during the first Gulf War.
Over the summer, Lane sent Corporal Ron Humble, a Marine veteran, and Corporal Brad Duerr, an Army veteran, to a train-the-trainer course in North Carolina. They led yesterday’s training for UTPD officers and will lead future sessions.
Lane said UTPD worked with students and staff at the campus’s new Veterans Resource Center to design a uniform patch for officers who complete the course.
Veterans CIT training builds on general CIT training, which the National Alliance of Mental Illness describes as “a model for community policing that brings together law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency departments, and individuals with mental illness and their families to improve responses to people in crisis. CIT programs enhance communication, identify mental health resources for assisting people in crisis, and ensure that officers get the training and support that they need.”
NAMI says the CIT training improves officer safety, helps police deal more effectively with mental disturbance calls, and saves money by reducing arrests.
Lane and Humble say the veterans CIT training emphasizes ways to build relationships with student veterans and provides strategies for helping veterans in crisis.
“The goal is to develop a cadre of veteran officers who can better identify and help with veterans who may be in crisis, or at least suffering difficulty in assimilation to the campus,” Lane said. “We hope that if nothing else, the designating patch will serve as a conversation starter with our veteran students.”
Amy Blakely (email@example.com, 865-974-5034)