"The Texas Crisis Intervention Team Association announced that Sgt. Jason Riddlespurger of the Amarillo Police Department was selected to receive the Mental Health Peace Officer of the Year, which is awarded to the law enforcement officer making the most effort to improve mental health response in his or her profession. According to the Association’s web site, they are a “non-profit organization comprised of law enforcement, corrections, the mental health community, and advocacy groups to provide standardized training, support, and education in responding to those affected by mental illness and/or those who are experiencing a mental health crisis.”
The award was announced at the 4th Annual CIT Conference held in South Padre Island. Sgt. Riddlespurger, a 20 year veteran of the Amarillo Police Department, attended the training conference with APD CIT officers Richard Cox and Ofc. Neil Jensen. Assistant Chief of Police Ken Funtek was on hand for the presentation.
The nomination by APD Special Operations Lt. Clay Rolan details much of Riddlespurger’s work to improve responses for people served by CIT. Lt. Rolan described how Riddlespurger worked to eliminate communication barriers between the APD CIT and various non-profit or government groups such as the Texas Panhandle Centers. Riddlespurger implemented a program which assured that every report or contact with a person suspected of needing mental health assistance was assigned to a CIT officer, much like a criminal report is assigned to an investigator. CIT officers follow up on contacts or reports. Sgt. Riddlespurger has proven that this could make significant impact by helping people receive proper mental health service and by reducing reliance on law enforcement resources that were often a temporary fix, at best. Lt. Rolan explained that the CIT program has made a difference in the community by assuring that more who need services are receiving them.
The APD Crisis Intervention team, which has been active since 2007, consists of patrol officers that have advanced training in recognizing and assisting people experiencing mental health events that bring them to the attention of law enforcement. Officers must volunteer for and be accepted for this duty. The CIT officers assist people directly or assist other patrol officers responding to calls ranging from suicide attempts and emergency committals to calls generated by people who need less immediate, long term mental health support. CIT officers can often be dispatched first if a call seems to indicate a need for their service. Patrol officers can contact CIT officers to assist with calls that can be resolved more effectively with their resources. The CIT officers work to provide the most appropriate assistance to the people in need and to divert them from the criminal justice system when appropriate. This reduces the use of law enforcement resources and provides better care for the person. One of the CIT’s early successes involved a woman who called officers to her home 53 times in one year. The calls were due to a mental health issue which caused hallucinations. CIT officers worked with other agencies to arrange treatment for the illness. The treatment reduced the woman’s need to call the police to one time in the next year. This reduced the time officers spent responding to her calls and kept them available to respond to calls that did require an officer.
Sgt. Riddlespurger has worked in the Department’s Uniform Division, School Liaison, Detective Division, and Special Crimes Unit. He is currently assigned to the Uniform Division, where he is the Field Training Officer and Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator. In his CIT role, Sgt. Riddlespurger oversees the efforts of six APD CIT officers. He is a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement certified Mental Health Peace Officer, holds the Master Peace Officer Proficiency Certificate, and has a Bachelor degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from University of Texas-Arlington. For more information about the CIT Association, go to http://www.texascit.org/index.php"
-Amarillo Police Dept.