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CSPD clears the air 

After an off-duty Colorado Springs Police Department officer handcuffed and searched a young autistic man during a church service, the Indy asked CSPD spokesman Sgt. Steve Noblitt if the department trained its officers to recognize developmental disabilities. He said that it did not.

But that wasn't exactly correct. As Noblitt explained following publication of "Bad service" (News, July 21), while the department doesn't provide mandatory training to recognize all forms of developmental disability and mental illness, it does provide a voluntary "Crisis Intervention Training."

Offered multiple times yearly, the 40-hour course is meant to expand officers' understanding of how best to interact with people who have a mental illness and/or disability. Noblitt says that 257 police employees have gone through the training.

Lt. Howard Black, a hostage negotiator with 29 years on the force, is one of them.

"It taught me how to deal with individuals who are in crisis, when they have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, or bipolar [disorder]," he says. "How are they filtering what they are hearing from us? That is something that really stood out to me.

"It was an incredible experience. I had an attitude of, 'What's this going to teach me?' I learned the first day that I had a lot to learn."

CIT-trained officers are assigned throughout the department, says Black, and the training is opened to others, too, including city officials, sheriff's deputies, even employees with nonprofits.

"Obviously it's law-enforcement focused," he says, "but we want our community members to have a better understanding of these crisis situations."

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