Herron Keyon Gaston

State Senator

Herron Keyon Gaston

Deputy Majority Leader

Empowering Communities, Driving Change

May 4, 2023

State Senator Herron Keyon Gaston Leads Passage of Legislation on Police Officer Training on Crisis Intervention

Today, state Senator Herron Keyon Gaston (D-Bridgeport), Senate Chair of the Public Safety and Security Committee, lead State Senate passage of a bill that will require police officer training on strategies including crisis intervention. This bill will also develop recommendations on how police officers and social workers may collaborate.

Senate Bill 972, ‘An Act Concerning Crisis Intervention Training For Police Officers And Collaboration Between Police Officers And Social Workers,’ passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and now heads to the House of Representatives.

“Addressing mental health is a collaborative effort and providing our law enforcement officers with proper strategies to intervene in an anxious, hostile, or violent environment may be the solution to safely diffusing the situation,” said Senator Gaston. “We must continue to prioritize mental health with this training and adapt to each situation using proven strategies that work. A joint effort between social workers and law enforcement officers will be beneficial in potentially helping save a life.”

Currently, each police training program given by the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), the State Police, or a police department must include POST-developed curricula for police officers on interacting with either people who have mental or physical disabilities or are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. This bill will require POST to add to the training crisis intervention strategies for police officers to use when interacting with people with mental illness in crisis.

Crisis Intervention Training will help reduce the risk of serious injuries during an interaction between officers and a person with mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the lack of mental health crisis services across the U.S. has resulted in law enforcement officers serving as first responders to most crises. A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program is an innovative, community-based approach to improve the outcomes of these encounters. CIT programs create connections between law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families.

SB 972 will also work to build relationships between police officers and social workers. A list of recommendations on how police officers can collaborate with social workers will be determined. Police are often the first responders to individuals in distress and sometimes they are the only responders.

The most comprehensive police social work practice is found in Illinois and Wisconsin. Police social workers are employed within more than 35 police departments and provide a variety of services in response to domestic violence, elder abuse and mental health.

The Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers submitted written testimony explaining the avenues social workers take when assisting those in crisis. The president wrote, “Social workers have extensive training in working with diverse populations, are problem solvers, experts in de-escalation. Through a “person-in-environment” approach, they can assist individuals and families to resolve societal problems. Social workers are aware of community resources and know how to access them. Social workers are advocates for clients in a way that creates trust and supportive relationships.”

Police officers are experts in addressing issues of law enforcement, social workers are experts in resolving social problems that bring individuals into encounters with the police.