Fifteen police officers from southeast Wyoming completed crisis-intervention training in mid-June at the University of Wyoming.
Debbie Hinkel, chair of Albany County’s mental health board and president of the Laramie chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness, told the Laramie Boomerang that the training was a return to the type of regular CIT training that was conducted in Albany County for five years before being abandoned a half-decade ago.
Hinkel is also the mother of Robbie Ramirez, the 39-year-old Laramie man who had a variant of schizophrenia and was fatally shot by an Albany County sheriff’s deputy in November.
Hinkel said the county’s mental health board was planning to reinstate the CIT training before Ramirez was killed.
CIT training works to train officers on how to respond to mental health issues they might encounter during their work.
The training, Hinkel said, was attended by three Laramie Police Department officers, one Laramie County sheriff’s deputy, one Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper and nine Albany County sheriff’s deputies.
It was the first time a WHP trooper had attended a CIT training that Hinkel’s been involved with and she said she was also particularly pleased by the number of deputies that came from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. It was significantly higher than numbers seen in the past, she said.
“It was a very impressive turnout,” she said. “And I was just very impressed in how they were engaged and asked lots of questions. They just showed a true desire to learn as much as they could.”
The 40-hour training was held at UW’s law school, and Hinkel said that several local restaurants donated lunches to the effort, including Roxie’s on Grand, Born in a Barn and Alibi Wood Fire Pizzeria.
Hinkel said that after attending a national conference about 11 years ago, she worked with then LPD Commander Mitch Cushman to get CIT Training off the ground in the county.
CIT training is a nationally standardized program that involves substantial amounts of role-playing with the kinds of situations a police officer might encounter.
“The university psychology department also had three speakers that came in,” Hinkel said. “There were several local professionals that spoke and there were also a couple visiting presenters that came in from out of town. The officers even got to hear from an individual that was experiencing mental illness and two family members of individuals with mental illness.”
This year, LPD training officer Ralph Lehtinen led the training with the help of Carolyn Pepper, who chairs the UW psychology department.
Hinkel said she expects the CIT training to continue to be conducted annually.