The Uvalde school shooting has renewed public discussion about the intersection of mental health, gun violence, and policing. Meanwhile, a pre-existing law enforcement initiative in Fort Worth emphasizes conflict de-escalation and proactive engagement with individuals obtaining treatment or support for a mental disorder, also known as “mental health consumers.”
The Fort Worth Police Department created its Mental Health Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) in September 2017.
Consisting of 20 specially trained “mental health peace officers,” the CIT’s mission is to “reduce the calls for service by patrol officers to incidents involving mental health consumers and to reduce the threat of potential violence associated with people who suffer from mental illness,” according to Fort Worth PD’s website.
Crisis Intervention Team Commander Amy Ladd told the TCU 360, “Increasing public trust and confidence in law enforcement among people suffering from mental illness, their families, and the community-at-large is our goal.”
Officers on the CIT are trained to deescalate potentially violent conflicts and coordinate with mental health service providers. They are supported by licensed clinical social workers provided by My Health My Resources (MHMR) of Tarrant County, a local taxpayer-funded social services agency.
“With the Crisis Intervention Team, we can be patient with individuals,” said MHMR director Leah White to NBC 5. “We have the time to sit down and really assess [people suffering a mental health crisis], listen and hear them out with their concerns. And that gives us the ability to divert them to the most appropriate treatment facility.”
Fort Worth PD’s CIT officers have so far responded to 4,380 calls in the city area in 2022. They successfully thwarted 348 suicide attempts, seized 29 firearms, and made 2,200 mental health follow-up calls.
Jake Hopson, a sergeant with Fort Worth PD, described the CIT’s work as “just as important as traffic, as investigation, as your SWAT team,” NBC 5.