Background & Approach
Polk County in south-central Iowa is the state’s most populous county and the home of the state capitol, Des Moines. Polk County expanded the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program to better prepare patrol officers to respond to mental health crises and divert people to treatment, rather than arresting them. Officers were trained to be CIT trainers, several sessions were held to train seasoned officers, and new officers received training at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Basic Academy to better understand mental health symptoms and available community resources. The Ankeny Police Department also implemented a Community Engagement Team where CIT-trained officers could follow up on all mental health calls for service. They now check in with individuals and provide a warm hand-off to mental health services and supports. Polk County’s quarterly meeting brought together law enforcement agencies, behavioral health providers, and crisis services providers to discuss successes, resources, and barriers. It also allowed trusting relationships to grow between all of these agencies working together to redirect people away from the criminal justice system and toward the services they need.
Polk County continues to engage with the Safety and Justice Challenge Network to rethink and redesign its criminal justice system so that it is more fair, just, and equitable for all.