April 9th, 2018
Fox Carolina wrote an article this evening reporting today’s Greenville County Council Public Safety Committee Meeting, made up of 5 county council members. The purpose of the meeting was to help build CIT for the Greenville County Sheriffs Office in order to prevent tragedies between law enforcement and individuals in crisis.
The policy suggestions for the Public Safety Committees consideration included:
- Asking the GCSO to appoint a command staff deputy to become the CIT coordinator for their department with full buy in from the Sheriff
- Train all GCSO dispatchers in a 2 hour CIT course from NAMI as soon as possible
- Discuss training budgets and funding and potential future growth of CIT for the GCSO
- Discuss CIT International Core Elements (Read Core Elements Document Here)
“I came out of three years of very severe bipolar episodes and suicidal level depressions,” Paton Blough said.
Blough is a mental health advocate and is open about his past interactions with law enforcement.
“I was hospitalized four times, three of those arrests went violently and I was tased by police,” he said.
Blough, Captain Stacey Owens from Greenville Police Department, and officials with the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) joined forces to see to it that all police officers become CIT trained – Crisis Intervention Training.
Blough said one incident making headlines back in August 2010 changed his world and the city of Greenville. Greenville police officers were called, after family of Andrew Torrez said he needed help. When officers responded, the situation escalated and Torrez was tased and later passed away.
Blough said inside the Greenville County Public Safety meeting Monday, the incident scared him. “I honestly had the thought that that could have been me.”
Captain Stacey Owens, GPD CIT coordinator, contributed to the conversation to explain what has worked and what hasn’t when it comes to CIT training in the police department.
“The Greenville Police Department started this back in 2010, it’s not something you can do overnight,” Owens said.
Now NAMI officials and members of county council suggest a CIT unit for the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. The group suggest also having a commanding staff deputy to oversee the unit, similar to Owens in the police department.
“The most successful CIT programs have a sworn officer that is really leading that program,” Blough said.
Officials said the deputy should be someone who is compassionate, can relate to those in a mental health crisis and that shows an outreach in the community.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Rick Roberts said, details revolving around the budget are still in the works and will be discussed at a later day. NAMI South Carolina said because CIT training is in such high demand statewide, funds are currently stretched thin. The organization is hoping for an increase in budget to help fund this county project.
“I think the timing is right, and as counsel we want to move forward,” Rick Roberts said. “There’s nothing more important than public safety and quality of life and having compassion for our citizens.”
Read more from the recent timeline of reaction to the Jermaine Massey tragedy through these media articles:
April 3rd, 2018 Greenville County Council members call for mandatory deputy training on mental health calls
WYFF Channel 4 News
April 3rd, 2018 People in mental health crises should be helped, not shot, County Council members say
WSPA Channel 7 News