Chicago activists with ONE Northside held a press conference at Chicago Police Department headquarters Tuesday to demand an increase in the number of officers who have Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) as a means to end the "brutality" against those with mental illnesses. The group is also calling on Chief Wayne Gulliford to be more "accountable and transparent" about the number of CIT officers in the department.
"Gulliford’s reluctance to increase the number of CIT police officers and to report those numbers publicly through the Public Safety Committee in City Council counters Superintendent McCarthy’s statement at the October 2013 budget hearing that dealing with mental illness crises is a top priority for the CPD," reads an announcement from ONE Northdside.
The activists say the closing of six mental health facilities in the city has created an environment in which "Chicago police officers have become first responders to mental health crisis and often mistake mental health crises for crime--essentially criminalizing mental illness and turning Cook County Jail into the largest provider of mental health services in the country."
Becky Brasfield was a speaker at the press conference, saying she was one of those who were arrested while in a "mental health crisis."
"The officers who arrested me were not CIT trained officers," Brasfield said. "The only thing that those officers knew how to do was to arrest me and put me in jail. That’s what those officers were trained to do and that’s exactly what they did. I don't fault the officers for their efforts to ensure public safety, but had those officers been trained in Crisis Intervention Training, I would have never gone to jail and I would have gotten the treatment I desperately needed.”
Following the press conference, member of the ONE Northside Mental Health Justice Team delivered a letter to CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy calling for some 400 officers to be trained in CIT each year and that quarterly reports be given to the Public Safety Commission as the deepartments works toward that training goal.