Objective: Police officers' voluntary choice to participate in specialized, week-long crisis intervention team (CIT) training is generally assumed to be a critical factor in success as a CIT officer. However, issues about self-selection have not been empirically examined. The investigators hypothesized that officers entering CIT training, especially those electing to take it, would have a higher likelihood of exposure to and experience with mental health issues and mental health professionals and greater empathy and psychological mindedness.
Methods: A total of 177 officers-including 109 non-CIT-trained officers, 24 officers assigned to CIT training, and 44 officers who volunteered for CIT training-were assessed before and after their week-long classes (non-CIT officers were enrolled in other courses). Basic sociodemographic characteristics were assessed, and four psychometrically sound measures of empathy and psychological mindedness were administered. Associations between officer status and sociodemographic variables, past exposure to and experience with mental illness issues, and empathy and psychological mindedness were examined.
Results: The three groups did not differ on three of four exposure and experience variables; however, self-selected CIT officers were more likely to have prior exposure to mental health issues and professionals. No differences were found between the three groups on measures of empathy or psychological mindedness. One measure of empathy increased significantly after the weeklong CIT training.
Conclusions: Findings did not support the hypothesis that officers self-selecting into CIT training would have greater baseline empathy and psychological mindedness. Although there may be other justifiable reasons to argue for the importance of volunteering, these two traits did not appear to be greater among officers self-selecting into CIT.