Psych calls, training don't overlap

Because of a growing number of calls involving mental illness, some police departments have embraced Crisis Intervention Team training that encourages officers to use a special weapon — verbal skills — when confronting individuals in crisis. Though widely hailed for encouraging officers to use de-escalation techniques instead of force, CIT is no panacea.

Many of the Allegheny County municipalities with the most psychiatric-related emergency calls have never sent an officer for CIT training.

From late 2010 through last year, the county 911 center received 3,133 psychiatric-related calls from Homestead — 103 for every 1,000 residents, the highest percentage countywide. Other communities generating more than 50 psychiatric calls per 1,000 residents were McKees Rocks, Braddock, Tarentum, Mt. Oliver, Millvale, Stowe, McKeesport, Duquesne, East Pittsburgh, Glassport, Clairton, Wilmerding, Rankin, Bellevue, Wilkinsburg and North Versailles.

But just three of those municipalities — Braddock, Bellevue and Wilkinsburg — have sent officers for CIT training, according to county Department of Human Services data.

Mental health calls per 1,000 population

Municipalities without CIT training:

less than 10 more than 70

Municipalities with CIT training:

less than 10 more than 70

Sources: Allegheny County and 12 municipalities

Notes: While most municipalities used Allegheny County's dispatchers during the entire period reviewed, some have their own dispatch systems, and others joined the county system during the period. The Post-Gazette included both county and municipal dispatching data where available. Four small municipalities -- Crescent, Leet, Bell Acres and McDonald -- rely on neighboring municipalities or counties for dispatching, and their calls were not included.


Writing: Rich Lord and Joe Smydo
Development: Laura Malt Schneiderman