Twenty-three sworn officers graduated from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Crisis Intervention Training program on Friday. To date, all county deputies with at least two years of service have completed the program.
The CIT program deals with a wide range of mental disabilities—from autism, to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury, to even coping with law enforcement officers’ own mental well-being and how to help a fellow officer contemplating suicide.
The program was launched five years ago with the goal of training at least a quarter of Loudoun deputies.
“Our goal is actually to stop the recidivism of sending people to jail, and get them into the proper treatment they need,” said Sgt. Linda Cerniglia, who runs CIT training in Loudoun. “So, when [deputies] learn how to communicate with people, it builds that trust and rapport with the public.”
Sheriff Michael Chapman said the program and the department’s few reported incidents of excessive force are “a tribute to the constant role of our agency, and our staff and our training staff, to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to professionalize what our deputies do out there.”
Cerniglia said the program will now switch to launching CIT training specifically for dealing with youth.
“Their mentality is much different than an adult’s, so we’ll be teaching adults how, basically, to talk to kids,” Cerniglia said. “We’ve had a lot of suicides here in Loudoun, and that has been a high priority with both mental health and the school system.