If someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 9-1-1 and provide a description of the person's behavior.
Improving our response to crises involving the mentally ill
Public safety incidents involving the mentally ill have been increasing in recent years, posing a serious challenge for the police and our community. From January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019, SFPD received 21,860 calls for help in cases involving a person in a behavioral or mental health crisis. These types of incidents include attempted suicides, suspects brandishing weapons, a mentally disturbed person, and youth who are out of their parent’s control. During the same period, SFPD received an additional 28,980 calls to check on the well-being of individuals in distress. Examples of this include someone found lying in the street, running in and out of traffic or believed to be isolated in an apartment.
We are constantly working to improve our effectiveness in these difficult cases, and over the past several years we have made important progress. In February 2011, the Police Commission established a Crisis Intervention Team Work Group to develop new training and more sophisticated approaches in the field. The task force was made up of criminal justice system employees, mental health service providers, advocates, community members, consumers of mental health services and their families and other city agency representatives.
Since that time, more than 1,181 officers have received 40 hours of training in ways to skillfully de-escalate incidents involving the mentally ill. Forty San Francisco Recreation and Park rangers, 12 San Francisco Department of Emergency Management dispatchers, two San Francisco County prosecutors and 22 BART patrol officers have also completed the course. For the most up to date numbers, click here. (PDF)
Our training has been so successful that it has attracted interest from far beyond the department. SFPD trainers have given the course to members of more than a dozen outside groups, including the California Highway Patrol, San Francisco Sheriff's Department, Golden Gate Bridge Patrol, San Francisco Fire Department, San Mateo Police Department, San Diego Police Department, San Francisco City Attorney's Office, and the San Francisco County Public Defender’s office. Our unit has received several awards and recognitions, including the 2019 California Police Officer's Association Award of Distinction. We have presented to the California Crisis Intervention Training Association (CACITA) in Sacramento in 2018; the American Psychological Association (APA) in May of 2019; the International Association Chiefs of Police (IACP) in Chicago in October, 2019; and the California Association of Hostage Negotiators (CAHN) Conference in January, 2020 in Garden Grove, CA.
The course is based on the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Team training, emphasizing de-escalation of potential crises by allowing “time and distance” — slowing down and giving the mentally ill person space.
In 2016, we began providing additional training in tactical responses to behavioral crises, teaching officers to form teams to handle the situations by using as little force as possible. Since that time, more than 2,205 officers have received this special training. In the same year, we created the Co-Responder Crisis Response Model, comprised of Crisis Intervention Specialists (DPH) and police working together. Working with the Department of Public Health, we deploy licensed mental health professionals, available 24 hours a day, to assist us in the field, helping to ensure individuals are adequately assessed and provided with mental health crisis services when needed.
The CIT curriculum and training focuses on increasing officers’ effectiveness by helping them better understand the state of mind of the mentally ill. It includes such topics as: Psychotropic Drugs and Side Effects; Juvenile Mental Health; Geriatric Mental Health; Suicide and Suicide Intervention; PTSD Signs and Symptoms; Homeless Outreach; Homeless Outreach; Intellectual Disabilities, and Spectrum Disorders.
A CIT awards ceremony is held each year to recognize officers who demonstrate excellence in the use of CIT principles.
For further information, please see these SFPD bulletins:
- Response to Mental Health Calls with Armed Suspects SFPD-DepartmentBulletin-13-120.pdf
- Procedure for Booking “CONREP” Arrestees SFPD-DepartmentBulletin-15-043.pdf
- Avoiding the “Lawful but Awful” Use of Force SFPD-DepartmentBulletin-15-106.pdf
- Transporting Persons Who Use Mobility Devices SFPD-DepartmentBulletin-15-146.pdf
- Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Response to Person in Crisis Calls for Service SFPD-DGO-5.21-CIT.pdf
- Psychological Evaluation of Adults SFPD-DGO-6.14.pdf
- Psychological Evaluation of Juveniles SFPD-DGO-7.02.pdf
- Critical Incident Evaluation and Notification SFPD-DGO-8.01.pdf
- Hostage and Barricaded Suspect Incidents SFPD-DGO-8.02.pdf
Lt Mario Molina
Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator
Learn About Our CIT Liaison Program
Click here to view a PDF and learn more about the CIT Liaison Program.
On Sunday, October 27 2019, Commander Daryl Fong, Lieutenant Mario Molina, and Officer Elizabeth Prillinger were proud to present on SFPD's CIT program at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) annual conference in Chicago. In collaboration with the St. Paul Police Department, SFPD shared best practices that enable law enforcement to create better crisis intervention strategies. Click here for more information about this session and the presenters.