The 33rd Carroll County officer to graduate from Critical Incident Training in Carroll County was the chief of the new police force in Mount Airy.
Chief Doug Reitz joined 12 officers from the Hampstead Police Department, Westminster Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff's Office, Baltimore Environmental Police and McDaniel College Department of Campus Safety for a graduation ceremony Friday.
The 13 officers spent a week in training learning about how to handle cases involving people with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and substance abuse disorders. On Friday, they gathered at The Arc of Carroll County to receive certificates and pins signifying they graduated from the CIT training program.
Before CIT training, officers would often take people to the hospital or arrest them, and follow-ups were lacking. Now, officers, deputies and troopers do follow-ups, and hospitalization or arrest is not the only option, Sheriff Jim DeWees said during the graduation.
"I promise you, you're going to use what you learned," DeWees told the graduating officers.
Reitz said the CIT training is important because officers encounter situations that require it all the time. He's currently building a new department, and he said that if the chief goes through the training, it gets woven into the department. He plans to have the majority of his force go through the training, he said.
"For me, it starts with the top down," Reitz said.
The training allowed him to see the perspective of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or problems with substance abuse. As part of the training, the officers used an iPod to listen to several voices at once while trying to complete simple tasks as a way to simulate auditory hallucinations, he said.
"The best thing for me is it was eye-opening," Reitz said.
It was a first for the Hampstead department as well. The graduation marked the introduction of two CIT-trained Hampstead officers: Private First Class Russell Halterman and Private First Class Clinton Thorn.
For Officer Sabrina Elgersma, of the McDaniel College Department of Campus Safety, the training connected her degree in social work and her career in law enforcement. Working on a college campus, she said she responds to crisis situations, and even when it's a daily task like letting in a locked-out student, she makes sure to check in with students to make sure they are doing OK.
Like Reitz, she said the training gave her an opportunity to see different perspectives. She also said it showed her the resources that were available in the county.
"I think that was the best part I got out of it," Elgersma said.
Resources was something officer Dustin McDaniel, with the Baltimore Environmental Police, also got out of the training. He said it gave him more knowledge to help handle crisis situations.
He runs into "a lot of people in crisis," he said.
The tools and resources he learned will help him find a better way to help someone in crisis, and sometimes that means asking whether someone is planning to commit suicide or harm themselves. Questions like that often put a lump in his throat, he said.
"To be honest, one of the things I learned through the training is you have to ask the tough questions," McDaniel said.