Using Innovative Ways To Better Serve the Community
Carl Metzger, NAMIGO Board Member & UCF Chief of Police
During all times of the year, the UCF Police Department (UCFPD) is prepared to respond to crisis calls. UCF Chief of Police Carl Metzger says of the valuable lessons learned from responding to such calls, “What you will learn is that you can’t just rush things. You need to build rapport. You need to gain the trust of the individual and it really is for their wellbeing. During that conversation it is about introducing. It is one-on-one. It is first names. You really want them not to think about the police uniform. It is about two people with one human being wanting to help another human being, and it is about having empathy for that person. Realizing that if they had a choice they would not want to be in that crisis. But here they are, trying to deal with it as best they can.”
Carl is a strong advocate for Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Youth Training, a NAMIGO educational program for police officers and mental health professionals. This course uses a youth-focused curriculum and provides tools on topics including adolescent development and psychiatric disorder; self-injury and suicide; civil citations; the individual and family experience; and de-escalation/reflective listening. It is sponsored by NAMI Greater Orlando and Orange County Government.
While all UCFPD Officers are CIT trained, not all college campuses have recognized the enormous need for the program. Carl describes the need for CIT saying, “Forty percent of college students polled last year said that they were so depressed that they were unable to function.” To ignore the need, he said, would be “…neglectful. Anyone operating either security or a police department at a university or college needs to participate in CIT training. Because to me, that is the minimum. That is the base. Then you build on top of that.”
The UCF Police Chief and the UCFPD have indeed built on top of their already-impressive CIT program. The department provides a refresher CIT course for all officers. It also has them participate in a specially designed CIT exercise, complete with role playing, allowing staff to experience a CIT response before being in a live situation. Metzger says this training is “pretty intense; it is realistic, it is in your face; the role-players, they play a very important part. If you do it correctly, it is embedded in the participants’ minds.”
Even with their outstanding CIT program, Deputy Chief Metzger and the UCFPD are always looking for innovative ways to better serve their community. Metzger says, “One new program that we are piloting right now is in partnership with Orange County’s Mobile Response Team (MRT).” Currently, the MRT serves minors and responds to schools when a student is exhibiting signs of a mental illness or crisis. Instead of calling law enforcement, the school contacts the MRT who comes to the school and makes an assessment. The MRT’s partnership with UCFPD will expand the age range of those served to include young adults. This expansion will provide a valuable, on-hand, expert mental health opinion for UCFPD officers, especially during peak times of stress such as the beginning of the semester, midterms, and finals.
The Greater Orlando Community is very fortunate to have Chief Metzger and the UCFPD to help those affected by mental illness cope in times of crisis.