62 F

Pictured are, from the left, Bellefontaine Police Chief Chris Marlow, BPD Officer Tyler Simpson, Urbana Police Officer Tristin Williams, UPD Chief Matthew Lingrell and Adam Sorenson. (EXAMINER PHOTO | Mandy Loehr) 

Two local law enforcements officers were recognized during a ceremony Wednesday, June 12, for their efforts to utilize their skills gained in Crisis Intervention Training and putting them into practice in the field, potentially saving lives and turning around volatile mental health crises. 

Bellefontaine Police Department Officer Tyler Simpson and Urbana Police Department Officer Tristin Williams each were named CIT Officers of the Year by the Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Services Board of Logan and Champaign Counties, with Officer Simpson receiving the Logan County honors and Officer Williams receiving the Champaign County award. 

“Tyler does so well in these types of situations because of his personality; he is so easy to talk to,” Chief Marlow said of Officer Simpson. 

“I remember back when I started at the police department and these types of programs weren’t available. We now have so many options and resources for folks, and we’ve had a 100 percent buy-in by our officers to the CIT program. Our officers see the success rate of the program and how getting people the help they need reduces our ‘repeat offenders.’”

Officer Simpson was first hired as an auxiliary officer with BPD in 2014, and he will mark 10 years as a full-time officer in November. 

“I try to connect with everyone I deal with and I let people know that at the very last resort is that I take them to jail,” Officer Simpson said. “I’d rather do anything I could to avoid that situation and see if we can connect them with other resources.”

Urbana Police Chief Matthew Lingrell noted the hope delivered through the CIT Program is invaluable to officers as they respond to these types of calls. 

“As a police officer, I think the opportunity to serve and give hope to others is a big part of why we do what we do,” he said. “When you look at the end of your career, I think that’s what you’re going to back look at, at all of the people you were able to help.”

The UPD chief recognized Officer Williams’ dedication to the field and his tireless work ethic. The 2017 Urbana High School graduate said he is proud to have remained in his hometown in service to his community.

“To me, law enforcement is about protecting and serving first, and doing well by the city, our chief and my family.”

The two honored officers were presented with certificates by MHDAS Director Adam Sorenson, fellow CIT Program Coordinator and Russells Point Police Chief Joe Freyhof, and National Alliance on Mental Health Logan and Champaign County Director Pete Floyd during the CIT Stakeholder meeting at Quest Community Church in West Liberty. 

Both officers also received a special tool to help them on duty as well and to keep them safe — a guardian light, which they can pin on their shoulder during a traffic stop or other roadside activities to give caution to approaching motorists. 

The 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training hosted by the MHDAS Board for local law enforcement officers includes a classroom portion of the training covering mental health disorders, substance use disorders, trauma-informed policing, legal issues, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) a panel/lived experiences, post traumatic stress disorders/traumatic brain injuries, military and veteran cultural considerations, & ICAT (Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics) Critical Decision-Making Model. 

The training also incorporates a full day of site visits to local behavioral health resources and concluded with a day of role-playing the ICAT de-escalation tactics.

“The CIT program is presented with such professionalism here locally,” Sorenson said. “We’re proud of the impact that it’s having and of our local officers who are using the training every day.”