FREEHOLD – It had all the hallmarks of a service call that could easily have gone quickly and badly wrong.
Thanks to four officers from the Keyport Police Department – three of them in just their second calendar year on duty, one of whom completed MCPO’s Crisis Response Team (CIT) training a few just months – the opposite result occurred. This was the second successful such appeal this month involving officers who completed the May 2022 CIT training at the DA’s office.
Acting Monmouth County District Attorney Lori Linskey and Acting Chief of Detectives for MCPO John G. McCabe Jr. personally visited patrol officers Vito Koempel, Christopher DeGroat, Elijah Smith and Nicholas Massaro in Keyport earlier this week to honor and thank them in person, echoing the Keyport Police Chief. Shannon Torres praised a level-headed team response under remarkable pressure while speaking to someone in the throes of a serious crisis recently.
“That’s what CIT is,” Linskey said. “Infusing a police response to a volatile situation like this with understanding, compassion and a willingness to listen will inevitably lead to a vastly improved outcome, and the actions of these officers are a powerful testament to that. I am grateful that our police services are embracing the CIT and that we are seeing such positive results on the ground.
While DeGroat joined his department in 2014, the other three agents who responded have less than two years on the job — Koempel got his badge in January 2021, Massaro last July and Smith last December. Next, Koempel was among a select group of approximately two dozen countywide sworn officers to participate in MCPO’s third round of CIT training in May 2022 — the 40-hour sessions provide in-depth insight into mental illness. , behavioral health, developmental disabilities, and their implications for law enforcement response during a crisis, with a strong focus on de-escalation.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER SPONSORED CONTENT
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS ANIMAL HOSPITAL
We treat each of our patients as part of the family at Atlantic Highlands Animal Hospital. We offer top quality surgical and dental treatments for cats and dogs. For the best pet care in the Atlantic Highlands, NJ, call us at (732) 291-4400. https://www.atlantichighlandsvet.com
The four patrollers were dispatched to the recent call for an individual in crisis in a residential area. The subject was initially described as upset, confused and armed – but within minutes Koempel and his partners were able to calm the situation and convince the person to drop their weapon.
From there, they recall, they managed to establish a rapport with the individual – who eventually insisted that it was he, and not the paramedics, who transported him for medical treatment.
They happily accepted.
“Just sitting there talking to someone and really listening is a lot,” Koempel said when asked to summarize how CIT training guided his approach.
About half of Monmouth County’s more than four dozen law enforcement agencies have now had at least one CIT training participant to date. Keyport will add two more when the fourth training cycle begins in October.
“Everyone in our ranks now wants to go train,” Chief Torres said.
The four officers honored this week also have one notable trait in common: policing is a family affair for everyone. Koempel’s uncle is a retired member of the Aberdeen Police Department; DeGroat’s father’s cousin is a retired NYPD Assistant Inspector, while his cousin is an active member of the NYPD; Massaro’s father works for the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police Department; and Smith’s brother is a member of the New Jersey State Social Services Police – while his godmother is MCPO Lt. Delisa Brazile, who retired in August 2020 after nearly 20 years with the Bureau and 25 years of service in law enforcement.
CIT training is based on an innovative international model, with community mental health and advocacy partnerships. MCPO CIT training instructors include behavioral and mental health professionals from Monmouth Medical Center, Monmouth County Mental Health Association, Monmouth County Mental Health Board and CPC Behavioral Healthcare, as well as crisis resolution experts .
For more information about CIT in New Jersey, go online to http://www.cit-nj.org/.