Twenty-eight local law enforcement officers graduated from Chester County's first Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training class on Friday, April 28 at the West Goshen municipal building. The officers completed the intensive, 40-hour training, which has been proven to increase public safety, divert people with mental illness from the criminal justice system, and decrease officer injuries.
“Superb,” was the one-word description from Stephan MacDonald, an officer from the Phoenixville Police Department. “In my eight years as a police officer, this is the most valuable program I’ve attended. It will definitely stay in my mind as I move forward.”
Police officers Wes Holman, from the West Goshen Police Department, and Vic Machese, from the East Coventry Police Department, were program graduates, as well as members of the CIT training team. Both officers are certified Mental Health First Aid instructors and their 8-hour session kicked off the week-long training.
"I guarantee, the next time one of these guys has a call that involves a mental health issue, they will use the information they learned this week," Holman said.
Machese agreed. "This was a great week. That first day of the program, the officers in the room set the tone. They were eager to learn, and I know they will apply the knowledge," he said.
CIT is an internationally renowned model for community policing that has been implemented in communities across the country for decades. With more than two million jail bookings involving a person with a mental health condition each year, the collaboration between law enforcement and the mental health system has never been more important.
Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, West Goshen Police Chief Joseph Gleason and Administrator for Chester County’s Department of Mental Health /Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Gary Entrekin, supported the program and attended the graduation. The program was implemented through a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. A second training session will be held at the end of October.
"This has been very exciting. I'm pleased that so many officers participated in the training,” said Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “Once these graduates start talking to their colleagues and supervisors about the program, I'm confident even more will attend our next CIT."
Chief Gleason, who had four of his officers attend the training, said he was proud of the reception given to the program and instructors, including officer Holman.
“The Mental Health First Aid class was a good set up for the week, and the rest of the information was so well-received,” Gleason said. “We’re proud to be a part of it.”
In addition to West Goshen, officers from Kennett, Phoenixville, Coatesville, Parkesburg, Malvern, West Chester, North Coventry, West Brandywine, Tredyffrin, Caln, East Fallowfield, West Pikeland, and East Pikeland took part in the program, as well as a state constable and representatives from Chester County Prison.