Arlington, VA

Five members of the Arlington County Police Department have received awards for their work in responding to calls involving people with a mental health crisis.

Captain Andy Penn, Officer Garrett Bombard, Sergeant Eliseo Pilco, Officer Ben Brown-Bieber and Deputy Andrew Flowers received the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Northern Virginia Chapter 2012 Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) award. They received the awards, which include a plaque and a $500 donation to the Department of Human Services to fund ongoing CIT training, at a banquet on June 7.

“Our department fully supports the CIT training initiative and our goal is to continue to increase the number of officers certified by offering several training opportunities each year,” said Arlington Police Chief M. Douglas Scott.

Since its inception in 2008, Arlington’s CIT program has trained more than 175 law enforcement personnel. Officers voluntarily sign up for the program and receive 40 hours of training, during which they learn to de-escalate difficult and potentially dangerous situations with an individual who has a mental illness.

Through the training, officers learn skills such as reducing injuries, and preventing inappropriate restraint and incarceration of a troubled individual. They also help to link individuals with mental illness to resources for receiving appropriate treatment.

CIT Coordinator Christina Clarkson was able to explain a type of situation similar to those the five officers received awards for. A man had been threatening himself and his family after having an adverse reaction to a new medication. He had been hallucinating, hearing voices and locked himself in the bathroom. Two officers used their CIT training to talk to the man and calm him down enough so he came out of the bathroom on his own, and checked into a mental health facility.

Information could not be provided about the specific incidents the five officers received the awards for.

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