Deescalation, ‘a soft touch’ key to Maui police academy’s crisis intervention approach

Their hope is that CIT will be taught to more community members in the state.
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 6:51 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 18, 2022 at 10:29 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County is taking the lead among Hawaii’s police departments by teaching recruits that a soft touch can save lives.

The Maui Police Department is now training all future officers in Crisis Intervention Team.

The techniques can defuse dangerous situations and de-escalate tension when dealing with people who are mentally unstable.

MPD was the first police department in the state to start teaching this curriculum in 2013.

It proved to work back in 2016 when a teen pretended to point a gun at officers outside MPD headquarters in Wailuku.

Instead of shooting the threatening teenager, an officer with CIT training de-escalated the situation.

Officials said the 17-year-old boy had PTSD and apparently wanted to be killed. CIT saved his life.

“Someone who may be suffering with PTSD, there’s triggers all around in the community that somebody else may not understand,” said police and public safety psychologist Dr. Alicia Rodriguez.

“But to them, it’s very real. So, if they can’t cope, they need someone to help them deescalate.”

MPD’s goal is to have every officer trained to help people like the teenager — and people like Cummins “Bo” Mahoe, who spoke at a CIT training session Monday morning.

“I don’t like to go into a dark place with a large number of people and I have no idea who they are,” Mahoe said. He served on the front lines in the Vietnam War. More than 50 years later, he still suffers from PTSD. Mahoe wants officers to be able to recognize how police tactics can trigger his condition.

“Police departments in the past always had their specialty teams like the SWAT team and what you had was done ninja-dressed officers surrounding with multiple heavy-duty, lethal weapons, and if you’re the person inside the house, or the facility looking out, I think it just helps escalate the anxiety,” said Mahoe.

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