Three Portage County officers were recognized as Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Officers of the Year: Officer Diane Dudziak of the Kent State University Police Department, Patrolman Scott Krieger of the Ravenna Police Department, and Officer Dominic Poe of the Kent Police Department.
The Portage County Police Chiefs Association reviewed the nominations and the awards were presented by the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County. The officers were awarded for practicing the communication and de-escalation techniques they learned during their CIT training in dealing with individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis or are struggling with addiction.
Officer Dudziak responded to about 30 crisis intervention calls during the past academic year, but it wasn’t just the quantity that caused her Captain Chris Jenkins to nominate her, it was the quality. “Diane’s empathy and knowledge of university and community resources is well-honed,” explained Jenkins. “She possesses a genuine compassion for the individuals she serves and their life circumstances.”
Dudziak has also demonstrated de-escalating individuals while balancing officer safety.
According to Ravenna Police Chief Jeff Wallis, Patrolman Krieger has gone above and beyond in working with several individuals Kreiger has helped to coordinate care with case managers and court officers to resolve issues, keep the individuals safe, and reduce further problems in the future.
“Patrolman Krieger is extremely dedicated – spending hours to connect people to resources,” stated Wallis.
In nominating Officer Poe, Chief Lee stated, “Officer Poe exhibits a caring and compassion for those that are in crisis or displaying erratic behavior that poses a potential for harm to themselves or to others. He has learned to approach these types of calls with a calming presence, neutralize the triggers and convince those in crisis to receive the help they need.”
John Garrity, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County explained that the CIT training is designed to create partnerships between law enforcement, behavioral health professionals, service recipients, and their families. “Many times, police officers are the first responders for individuals who are experiencing a mental illness crisis. Specialized training in mental illness and knowledge about the local treatment system is vital for law enforcement in order to assist individuals in crisis and help reduce arrest and incarceration when referral and treatment might be more appropriate,” stated Garrity.
Since 2006, more than 250 officers have completed the class in Portage County. Every law enforcement agency in the county has CIT officers. The course is supported nationwide by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The Officers of the Year were recognized at the Portage County Substance Abuse & Mental Health Conference. A video of the awards ceremony can be found at www.mental-health-recovery.org/2019-conference
Chief Jeff Wallis and CIT Officer of the Year Scott Krieger, Ravenna Police; CIT Officer of the Year Officer Diane Dudziak, Chief Dean Tondiglia, Captain Chris Jenkins, Kent State University Police; Sheriff David Doak, Dr. John Garrity, Mental Health & Recovery Board; Captain Nick Shearer and CIT Officer of the Year Dominic Poe, Kent City Police.