The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program is an approach for law enforcement officers to safely response to individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis. Research must identify the components of CIT that are instrumental to the overall effectiveness of the program. For instance, recent studies report that CIT may have a transformative effect on officers' attitudes by increasing exposure to and familiarity with mental illness. This study explores this possibility further by examining 57 CIT officers' experiences with mental illness and attitudes about CIT. Specifically, we assessed how personal and professional exposure to mental illness associates with officers' perceptions about CIT generally, as well as with opinions about the officers' confidence in their abilities and the perceived effectiveness of the police department in responding to individuals in mental health crisis. Our findings indicate that CIT is rated very positively by officers. We found that officers' attitudes about the impact of CIT on improving overall safety, accessibility of services, officer skills and techniques, and the preparedness of officers to handle calls involving persons with mental illness are positively associated with officers' confidence in their abilities or with officers' perceptions of overall departmental effectiveness. There is further evidence that personal contact with individuals with mental illness affects the relationship between attitudes that CIT impacts overall safety and perceived departmental effectiveness. The results of this exploratory study underscore the importance of CIT officers' perceptions of key elements of CIT and the role of exposure to mental illness in examining program effectiveness.
Keywords: Crisis intervention team; Familiarity with mental illness; Officer confidence.
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