LIFE-SAV­ING TRAIN­ING

City po­lice cri­sis man­age­ment pro­gram vi­tal to de­fus­ing po­ten­tial volatile sit­u­a­tions

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Diane Pineiro-Zucker dpzucker@free­manon­line.com di­aneat­free­man on Twit­ter

KINGSTON >> City po­lice De­tec­tive Lt. Thierry Croizier says he is proud of the men and women in his depart­ment, many of whom he has trained in de­fus­ing po­ten­tially volatile sit­u­a­tions.

On Oct. 13, Croizer be­lieves that train­ing may have saved a woman’s life, and per­haps the lives of some of Kingston’s men and women in blue.

Early that morn­ing, po­lice re­ceived a 911 call from a woman re­port­ing shots fired in an apart­ment at 82 Cedar Street. When of­fi­cers Jeremy Ar­ciello, Michael De­france, Adri­enne Pon­tecorvo, Ed­ward Shu­man and Christo­pher Zam­brella ar­rived, they found an ob­vi­ously dis­tressed young woman hold­ing what ap­peared to be a hand­gun.

The of­fi­cers, who were con­fined in a small apart­ment build­ing en­try­way, were able to con­vince the woman to drop the gun (which turned out to be a pel­let gun, but re­sem­bled a pis­tol) and she was safely taken into cus­tody.

The woman, who was not charged with a crime and has not been iden­ti­fied, was taken to Health-Al­liance Hos­pi­tal for eval­u­a­tion and treat­ment.

“If they hadn’t re­mained calm and re­verted back to their train­ing ... the sit­u­a­tion could have ended much dif­fer­ently,” Croizer said. “Too of­ten, you hear about those times

when those sit­u­a­tions don’t end well.”

Al­though there were five of­fi­cers on the scene, he said only one spoke to the 22-year-old woman.

“It sounds silly, but it’s real im­por­tant be­cause a per­son’s in dis­tress and there were three or four of­fi­cers there,” Crozier said. “If there had been three or four peo­ple yelling di­rec­tions to her, it’s go­ing to con­fuse them even more.”

Af­ter con­vinc­ing the woman to drop her weapon, Crozier said the of­fi­cers learned she had called the po­lice her­self, was hold­ing a pel­let gun and her in­tent was “to com­mit sui­cide by cop.”

Po­lice Chief Egidio Tinti said “the of­fi­cers used the train­ing they re­ceived in deal­ing with an emo­tion­ally dis­tressed per­son and the out­come was that every­one – the of­fi­cers, the in­di­vid­ual and oth­ers in the apart­ment were safe and un­harmed.

“Who knows what the out­come may have been with­out any train­ing.”

“I truly be­lieve that the train­ing that of­fi­cers re­ceive in re­gards to deal­ing with a per­son in cri­sis helps those of­fi­cers use bet­ter judge­ment ... and greatly en­hances safety for all in­volved: the re­spond­ing of­fi­cers, emo­tion­ally dis­tressed

in­di­vid­u­als and oth­ers present at the call,” Croizer said.

Croizer said Kingston po­lice have been at the fore­front of men­tal health aware­ness train­ing, which is now man­dated statewide, since 1987 or ’88.

“It brings me great pride,” he said, “be­cause I’m very proud of my Kingston po­lice depart­ment her­itage.”

The de­tec­tive lieu­tenant is a New York state cer­ti­fied master in­struc­tor in the Po­lice Men­tal Health Re­cruit Cur­ricu­lum and teaches classes at a po­lice academy of­fered at SUNY Ul­ster to Kingston po­lice as well as of­fi­cers from other ar­eas.

He also con­sults with the se­cu­rity staff of New York Pres­by­te­rian Hos­pi­tal. Croizer con­ducts all of the train­ing as a con­sul­tant and on his own time, he said.

The 50-year-old fa­ther of two — a 21-year-old part­time Olive po­lice of­fi­cer and a 19-year-old Dutchess Com­mu­nity Col­lege stu­dent — said his pas­sion for the po­lice men­tal health cur­ricu­lum be­gan in 2002, the year he lost his best friend to sui­cide.

“Any time I teach this class, I ba­si­cally teach it in his honor,” Croizer said. “I think about him ev­ery day. He was lit­er­ally like a brother to me.”

Croizer’s per­sonal loss left him a be­liever in the im­por­tance of train­ing cops to han­dle cri­sis, whether they in­volve emo­tion­ally dis­tressed

or men­tally ill in­di­vid­u­als, and in work­ing to dis­pel the stigma some­times at­tached to men­tal ill­ness.

“Please re­mem­ber that per­sons who suf­fer from men­tal ill­ness are more likely to be a vic­tim of crime than to com­mit a crime. Of all vi­o­lent crimes com­mit­ted, only 3 to 5 per­cent are di­rectly at­trib­uted to some­one who is suf­fer­ing from men­tal ill­ness,” he said. “I am not a doc­tor. We are not doc­tors in law en­force­ment.

“I’m not go­ing to di­ag­nose any­body . ... They might ap­pear to be men­tally ill ... (But) it might be due to sub­stance abuse ... it might be due to a med­i­cal con­di­tion. ... It might be ... Alzheimer’s di­men­tia. It might be a host of other med­i­cal con­di­tions, maybe a brain tu­mor or some­thing else that might make some­one ap­pear to be men­tally ill. And also, you might have sit­u­a­tional stress,” he said.

“The of­fi­cers, like I said, aren’t doc­tors and they have to rec­og­nize that a per­son’s in cri­sis and they’re not go­ing to solve this per­son’s prob­lems . ... We’re just there to help in­di­vid­u­als start get­ting the help they need.”

Not only does Croizer pro­vide train­ing in the lo­cal academy, he trav­els through­out New York state and trains other of­fi­cers and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to be cer­ti­fied New York state in­struc­tors. And he’s also a Cri­sis In­ter­ven­tion Team trainer.

“The CIT pro­gram is a week-long course that re­in­forces what was pre­vi­ously taught in the academy as well as iden­ti­fies other re­sources avail­able to the of­fi­cers to be bet­ter able to help an in­di­vid­ual in cri­sis,” Tinti said. “His train­ing to sur­round­ing po­lice academies, po­lice agen­cies, and through­out the state helps of­fi­cers bet­ter cope with dif­fi­cult calls for ser­vice and in­creases safety in these sit­u­a­tions — for the of­fi­cers, in­di­vid­u­als in cri­sis and by­s­tanders at the calls.”

Tinti said city po­lice re­spond to about 30 calls a month “strictly in­volv­ing a per­son in cri­sis, an emo­tion­ally dis­tressed per­son.”

He said that num­ber “doesn’t in­clude all the other calls where an of­fi­cer re­sponds to a call where, one party or more, may be up­set or stressed to the point that they may be act­ing or think­ing less ra­tio­nally then a per­son with­out that same stress.”

For that rea­son, the chief said, the men­tal health train­ing an of­fi­cer re­ceives at the po­lice academy and through­out his or her ca­reer is “in­valu­able.”

“The of­fi­cer on the road gets to put that train­ing to use on a daily ba­sis,” Tinti said, and “uses the com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills that they learned in their academy train­ing to help them con­nect with the per­son in cri­sis, de-es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion, and di­rect the per­son to a safe out­come for all.”

PHO­TOS BY TA­NIA BARRICKLO — DAILY FREE­MAN

Kingston Po­lice De­tec­tive Lt. Thierry Crozier said cri­sis man­age­ment train­ing has been a life-saver to many.

Hand­book used for po­lice cri­sis man­age­ment train­ing.

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