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Police Complaints Board Recommends that the District of Columbia Establish a Crisis Intervention Team

Thursday, September 7, 2006

(Washington, DC) The Police Complaints Board (PCB), which oversees the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a comprehensive report and set of recommendations to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Charles H. Ramsey proposing that the District of Columbia and MPD establish a crisis intervention team (CIT) to enhance police responses to people with mental illness.

Since OPC opened to the public in 2001, the agency has received a number of citizen complaints about MPD officer interactions with people living with mental illness. In some cases, citizens have been arrested and subjected to police use of force for engaging in behavior that is symptomatic of or stems from mental illness.  In other instances, officers have sometimes refused to assist or have treated individuals disrespectfully who are suspected of being mentally ill.

It is estimated that MPD responds to approximately 500,000 calls for service annually, 7 percent of which involve a person with mental illness. In an effort to interact more effectively with people who have mental illness, PCB believes that the CIT model, pioneered by the Memphis Police Department, would best serve Washington, DC. Several other jurisdictions around the country, including nearby Montgomery County and Baltimore, have implemented CIT programs.

If fully implemented, a crisis intervention team would make available, at all times in all parts of the city, police officers with the expertise to de-escalate a mental health crisis and quickly connect individuals in crisis to appropriate treatment.

Adoption of the program would require the development of a strong partnership among MPD, the DC Department of Mental Health, community-based mental health service providers, and advocates for people who live with mental illness. This collaboration would benefit the entire city.

“Successful implementation of CIT would decrease police misconduct that stems from inappropriate responses to people with mental illness, reduce arrests in these cases, and bring down the number of police officer and citizen injuries associated with mental health crises,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s executive director. “There would also be fewer lawsuits against the city arising from the improper handling of people with mental illness.”

PCB has recommended 14 critical action steps that should be undertaken to ensure prompt and successful implementation of a CIT program in the District of Columbia. PCB’s full report and recommendations are available online:

For additional information or questions regarding the report and recommendation, contact OPC Public Affairs Specialist, Melanie L. Deggins, at (202) 727-3838.