Date of Conferral





Criminal Justice


Grace Telesco


Police officers are often the frontline responders to calls involving people in mental distress. The lack of specialized mental health training can influence stigmatization and criminalization of people with a serious mental illness (SMI). Crisis intervention team (CIT) training is a tool to provide law enforcement with specialized mental health training to enhance their skills and comfort level when responding to crisis calls. There is a gap in the research examining officers' experiences with CIT training and how they apply that training when encountering people who have a SMI. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore a select group of police officers in Central Pennsylvania who are trained in CIT and how they use the tools learned from CIT training while on the job. Using the social distance theory and procedural justice theoretical framework, the researcher investigated the experiences of CIT officers by using the information gained from CIT training with individuals they encounter with a SMI. This study also examined the components that officers find most valuable from CIT training when responding to individuals who have a SMI. Participants in the study consisted of police officers trained in CIT, from a rural department, and have responded to mental health calls. Key findings showed that CIT training improved officers’ knowledge and understanding of mental health to be able to slow down on crisis calls and show empathy towards people who have a SMI. Implications for positive social change involve policy reform for law enforcement training. The data from this study reveals that CIT training should be utilized across police jurisdictions, as it has shown to improve the interactions between law enforcement and people who have a SMI.