Honolulu Police Department expands Crisis Intervention Team as need grows

A total of 150 HPD officers are now available to deal with calls involving someone suffering from mental illness or developmental delays.
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 5:05 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 28, 2022 at 6:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department’s crisis intervention team is expanding to help more people suffering from mental illness.

HPD has 17 more officers on the Crisis Intervention Team, after they completed the course Friday. A total of 150 HPD officers are now available to deal with calls involving someone suffering from mental illness or developmental delays.

The 40-hour course, taken over five days, is organized by Hawaii nonprofit National Alliance on Mental Illness also known as NAMI.

Kumi Macdonald, Executive Director of NAMI Hawaii, said the training helps officers learn the difference between someone who needs help, instead of handcuffs.

The officers learn about “all the different mental illnesses, the different kind of developmental delays.”

Macdonald said recognition helps determine their reaction.

There is a waiting list to get into the course, which is only available to officers who have had at least two years in patrol.

“I get a lot of calls that have to do with the chronically homeless and mentally ill,” said Officer Samantha Iha-Preece.

Officer David Ishida said he signed up for the course “to become a better officer at dealing with these matters. It is a vast majority of our calls.”

Major Mike Lambert said officers may realize the person is suffering, but prior to the training, they don’t know how to react.

“Situations where people don’t respond the way that we want them to,” Lambert said, adding that after the course, they have a better understanding of what the person needs.

Macdonald said officers yelling commands can often make it worse.

“Calm down, slow down and try to connect with the person,” Macdonald said.

Crisis intervention training for HPD started in 2019. Prior to that, there were a series of controversial incidents involving police and the mentally ill.

Some resulted in deadly shootings that were followed by expensive civil lawsuits.

The NAMI program has been adopted in many states and is touted by police departments for its work to get those who need medical attention or treatment out of jails.

“We’re saving lives, we’re saving money for the departments, we’re having more officer safety,” said Macdonald.

HPD wants to get 400 certified CIT officers total, which would be 20% of the department. That would ensure a trained officer could be available every shift.

Maui Police is the only other Hawaii police department that is actively training officers in crisis intervention.

The Hawaii County Police Department will conduct its first class next month.

The Kauai Police Department has reached out to NAMI to discuss starting a class too.