High hopes for Redding PD’s new Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT)

REDDING, Calif., — Redding Police Department yesterday announced the creation and implementation of the department’s Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT), a new unit created in partnership with Shasta County Public Health.

Comprised of two police officers with advanced crisis intervention and mental health training, along with a mental health clinician from Shasta County Health and Human Services, the specialized team will work to deescalate situations involving those experiencing a mental health crisis and when appropriate, divert them from the criminal justice system.

“In addition, CIRT has the ability to immediately connect individuals with resources to help address their physical and mental health needs,” Redding PD said in yesterday’s announcement. “This includes ongoing follow-up after the incident is over to address continuing needs of the individual.”

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Officials went on to explain that CIRT officers will work in plain clothes, with body armor and weapons concealed, while using an unmarked police SUV. In addition to their other duties, they will be the primary responding unit for all emergency crisis intervention calls for service in the City of Redding.

Long term goals for the team include assigning a deputy from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office to join the team and increasing the response area to additional areas in Shasta County.

Members of CIRT include seven-year veteran Officer Devin Ketel (L), nineteen-year veteran Officer Teddy Snyder (R), and Nikki Brandon (M), a Shasta County Health and Human Services mental health clinician for nearly 10 years. Redding PD photos

Funding for the team include three-quarters of one officer’s salary being covered by Shasta County Health and Human Services, while the City of Redding Housing Division received a grant to cover the second officer. The City of Redding provided the remaining salary, benefits, office space and vehicle to facilitate the team’s needs.

With the additional funding, CIRT will also provide outreach for homeless individuals experiencing mental health issues and work to get them off the street and into treatment whenever possible.

Other similar crisis intervention and homeless outreach teams across the state and throughout the nation have also begun to include specially trained officers and deputies partnered with mental health and social service professionals in their crisis intervention and homeless outreach teams, which are usually deployed in three or four person groups.

Reports from around the nation have shown these highly-specialized teams to be overwhelmingly effective and many have been widely praised for their efforts providing for the physical and mental health needs of those they contact, as well as providing immediate access to re-housing and drug or alcohol rehabilitation services as needed.

Like many agencies, Redding PD’s CIRT was created following several years of citizens across the nation calling for better mental health services when related to law enforcement duties and officers’ contacts with the public, especially those suffering from a mental health crisis.

Many have even called for those teams to be comprised of citizen-only mental health and social service professionals, claiming that not having an armed officer on the team would be more conducive to the services being provided. However, the idea has been widely criticized and derided by, and received much push back from, law enforcement agencies across the nation, with police chiefs, county sheriff’s and other law enforcement advocates saying that puts those offering the services at too great a risk.

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One such incident that proved deadly, and went from friendly contact to fatal encounter in under 12 seconds, involved the Riverside Police Department in southern California’s Inland Empire just a few months ago.

On the morning of May 8th, the department’s Public Safety Engagement Team (PSET) members were about to contact a group of homeless individuals at a known homeless encampment near a busy and popular shopping center. Per their department’s protocol, the two officers assigned to the team were about to make initial contact with the group while the civilians waited in their vehicle, when one man began briskly walking away.

Asked, and then ordered to stop, the man, who was later found to have a long and extensive criminal history, suddenly spun around with a loaded handgun and pointed it at the officers. The officers immediately opened fire, killing him. Body-worn camera footage of the shooting was later released by the department and can be viewed below in its entirety here.

As reported by SCNS sister-publication RCNS at the time, after the deadly encounter Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez spoke about how and why the incident highlighted the need for mental health professionals to be accompanied by sworn officers when they provide street-side services.

“This is the exact scenario I worry about if we had a full civilianized team,” the Chief explained after last May’s deadly shooting; adding, “I can’t afford to have even one civilian employee get hurt because we are not there.”

Opponents of civilian-only based social service and crisis intervention teams now point to that and other similar incidents they say perfectly highlight that inherent risk. Many also say the incident proved just how important it is to have armed officers or deputies to accompany mental health professionals while they are out on the streets and contacting those who may be in need of assistance or are already experiencing a mental health crisis.

With most of the trio’s salaries being funded by Shasta County Health and Human Services and City of Redding Housing Division and the rest being provided by the department, Redding PD’s new Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) will work to deescalate situations involving those experiencing a mental health crisis. They will also be the primary responding unit for all emergency crisis intervention calls for service in the City of Redding. Redding PD photo

About his own department’s announcement yesterday, Redding Police Chief Bill Schueller expressed enthusiasm and high hopes for the new team, saying, “I am excited CIRT has launched and I am confident they will be successful in improving the lives of individuals suffering from mental illness.”

“My hope is this program becomes the model for law enforcement throughout California and beyond,” he continued.

Body-worn camera footage captured by two City of Riverside police officers show the moment the PSET members opened fire on a handgun-wielding homeless man, just moments before social workers were about to contact him and others in the area regarding services being provided by the City of Riverside. Click here to view full video later provided by Riverside PD.

Writer’s Note: In addition to their Public Safety Engagement Team (PSET), Riverside PD also features the Community Behavioral Health Assessment Team (CBAT). With both teams consisting of two specially trained police officers, PSET includes a code enforcement officer and two city employees who offer social services such as housing, substance abuse assistance and counseling to area homeless, while CBAT consists of two County of Riverside clinical therapists ready to provide mental health and other related services.



Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 50, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.

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