Rainey adds, "The person actually has to almost write a Master's thesis to graduate; it's a very intensive program."
Rainey's had several of his command staff members attend the role of Police Chief Course. "It's very important from my standpoint," he says, "that they understand when they're sitting in for me and making decisions; decisions are not being made in a vacuum. They have to understand what's coming from the top, what's coming from outside the organization, that they really have a good global perspective."
Impact of Mental Illness
Crisis Intervention Training is how a law enforcement officer deals with subjects that are mentally ill — a very volatile situation. "We have so many people out there that are homeless, possibly suffering from some type of mental illness because they're not being properly treated, not getting their medications so they have a tendency to slip into a crisis episode where they become a danger to themselves or others," Rainey explains.
"Law enforcement gets the call and before you know it, you can have a violent confrontation because maybe the individual is armed, not necessarily armed to protect themselves from law enforcement, but they're living out on the street and they're getting preyed upon by other homeless individuals or other predators out there."
He says they trained all of their field officers in crisis intervention, 24 individuals, and now are expanding it to include regular line officers so they would have an additional 20 officers trained.
"A lot of people don't understand; it's not like a traditional class where you have one instructor come in," explains Rainey. "You're trying to coordinate schedules of mental health professionals, people who are affiliated with the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill — NAMI —, doctors, other practitioners, they get people who have suffered from mental illness but are on medications to try to explain what it's like — this is what I experience when I'm not on my meds and when I am on my meds — very intensive coursework to really give an officer a better perspective when they go into these situations."
The way he came across the idea, Rainey says, was while he was working in Southern California, about 10-1/2 years ago, and he was dealing with this type of situation. There were homeless individuals that the Flood Control District required to be evacuated from the river bottom and the other officers were explaining to Rainey that it's not just a simple rounding them up and getting them out. "A lot of these individuals are veterans. They're definitely trained and they can protect themselves," he states. "They have booby traps down there, dogs and stuff; it's dangerous going down there.
"As we researched this, we came across the CIT program, often known as the Memphis Model." He elaborates, "As we looked more and more into this, just within our county, we looked 10 years back and found out all the law enforcement officers that had been killed in the last 10 years had been killed by somebody suffering from a mental illness. Very profound; really opened our eyes to how big this problem was.
"Seventy percent of our officer-involved shootings through-out the county involve somebody with a mental illness." Rainey says, "It really put the spotlight on us that it's not just mental illness; it's an officer safety issue. So the more tools we can put in our personnel's tool kit when they go out there, the individual we're trying to get help for, the better off for personnel."
Budget Cut Impacts
"It's this whole period of austerity or budget cutting, whichever your political leanings want to call it. We have prison realignment going on where everyone's looking for a way to cut back every level of government, cutting back and more or less, putting the burden on smaller levels of government," Rainey says.
"Starts off at state, state to counties, counties to the cities, and the smaller you are ... you really become impacted." He says, "We've seen cities, their law enforcement agencies, they do away with them and they contract with a service department. Part of the barebones minimum number of people that they can get away with and putting out on the street."