CIT Returns to Fairfax County!

Great news for those of us who live in Fairfax County, Virginia!
The Fairfax County Police Department just finished conducting a CIT class that was held from September 28th to October 1st and was attended by 49 officers.
In an earlier blog, I criticized the department for not including Crisis Intervention Team classes as part of the police force’s regular training program.    For those of you unfamiliar with CIT, it is a specially designed program that brings mental health professionals and law enforcement together to find ways to improve community mental health services.   
Sadly, police officers today deal with more persons with severe mental disorders than psychiatrists do. It only makes sense that the police undergo training that helps them identify someone who might be having a mental break and teaches them successful methods to deal with those persons, hopefully without force.
Several Fairfax officers who attended the CIT class wrote in their evaluations that CIT should be mandatory for every officer. That shows how useful they felt the class was for them!
I am not surprised. 
There usually is resistance when a department begins CIT training. Sometimes officers think it is just another “hug a thug” program and mental health providers view the police with suspicion. But after both groups get involved in the mutual training, they see how it can save the lives of not only persons with mental disorders but also officers who encounter someone in the midst of a break. CIT trained officers become a welcomed part of community mental health services.
You might recall that my wife, Patti and I, give $500 each year through our local National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter to be used to commemorate the CIT Officer of the Year here in Fairfax and Arlington Counties. This is because we strongly believe in supporting CIT and putting our money where our mouths are.
I personally have seen how CIT saves lives.
While doing research for my book in Miami, I followed one police department that stubbornly refused to implement CIT and another that did. Four persons who had severe mental illnesses were fatally shot by the department that rejected CIT. The other police force had no such fatalities.
Given the fatal police shooting last year of David Masters, an unarmed man with mental illness who had taken flowers from a local business without paying for them, the resumption of CIT training in Fairfax is important news.
Even better, the structure has been put in place now to ensure that CIT training will occur twice a year. It now is the responsibility of the Criminal Justice Academy and Woodburn Mental Health to conduct the training and manage the classes.
Police Chief Colonel David M. Rohrer should be congratulated for implementing CIT. Officials at Woodburn also should be commended.
I remember when NAMI gave its first CIT Officer of the Year Award to Michael Kline, Chief Rohrer took time to attend the ceremony, which showed how much he thought of CIT and Major Kline. For many years, Major Kline and Major Tom Ryan shepherded CIT inside the department completely on their own and their determination planted the seeds that now are sprouting.
Thank you to both. This is indeed, a good step in our community.
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. Thanks, Pete.

  2. I live in a very populated area in New York. I couldn’t even get the police to answer a simple question about what training they get for handling the mentally ill… I’m just a citizen with a relative who’s seriously mentally ill and had psychotic breaks and confrontations in public. In fact, when I called, the police operator hung up the phone on me! Why in god’s name are police departments so ridiculously resistant to learning how to deal with the mentally ill? It would benefit them in every way possible? It can’t possibly be just about budgets and money available. Outrageous and stupid.