MPD launch Crisis Intervention Team program for inmates facing mental illnesses

MEMPHIS,Tenn. — Memphis police said thousands of people are incarcerated every year, and in some cases, it’s due to a mental health issue.

They say those suffering from those issues shouldn’t be behind bars, so they’re making sure it doesn’t happen through their Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).

“We don’t want to take people to jail and there are tons of people who have been locked up or incarcerated who probably shouldn’t have been incarcerated because they have a mental illness,” said MPD Lt. Colonel Vincent Beasley.

MORE: Mental health counseling available for those struggling during the pandemic

Beasley said they’re working to continue to bridge the gap between the community and policing through the program. It’s a community partnership between law enforcement, mental health professionals and other advocates to provide medical treatment and de-escalation rather than placing people in jail due to mental illnesses.

“Sometimes people do things and it’s just because they’re off their medication, or they haven’t been diagnosed, or they need to be put on a regiment and that’s where we come in,” Beasley explained.

It started in 1988 after a Memphis man was killed by police, but later it was found that he was mentally ill. Now it’s a model to prevent that from happening, and it’s being adopted all over the world for better police and community relations.

“Over 4,000 over agencies have adopted the Memphis model. We were in Uruguay and China, you name it. We’re proud that it’s a Memphis model,” said Beasley.

Officer Beasley said now there’s a little piece of Memphis all over the world to help those who need it.

“We want our communities, our cities and our nation to be a better place," he said. "And we have to realize that mental illness is here to stay.”

This is a program that normally costs over $4,000 to implement, but Beasley said they’re doing it for free to any law enforcement personnel interested and some community leaders in the public to protect those who need help.