It had all the hallmarks of a call for service that could have easily gone quickly and badly wrong.
Thanks to four Keyport Police Department officers — including three in only their second calendar year of service, one of whom completed Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training just several months ago — the opposite outcome transpired.
CIT training is based on an innovative international model, with community mental healthcare and advocacy partnerships. Instructors for MCPO’s CIT training include behavioral and mental health professionals from Monmouth Medical Center, the Monmouth County Mental Health Association, the Monmouth County Mental Health Board, and CPC Behavioral Healthcare, as well as crisis resolution experts.
Patrolmen Vito Koempel, Christopher DeGroat, Elijah Smith and Nicholas Massaro — were dispatched to the recent call for an individual in crisis in a residential neighborhood. The subject was initially described as upset, confused and armed. But within minutes, Koempel and his partners managed to calm the situation and convince the person to discard their weapon.
From there, they managed to establish a rapport with the individual, who ultimately insisted that they, not EMTs, be the ones to transport them to receive medical attention. They gladly agreed.
It was the second successful outcome to such a call this month involving officers who attended the May 2022 CIT Training. In Freehold, Hazlet Patrolman John Corcione helped a homeless transgender subject who was living out of a van in the parking lot of a local storage facility and was attempting self harm by CO poisoning. When he got to the scene, Corcione began to talk with the person who was sitting in a car at the time, holding a weapon.
Corcione used skills in de-escalating the situation that he learned in the training class: “You’ve got to let me help you,” were some of the first words he spoke to the individual. The officer even told the person about the training and explained that he was trained to respond to critical incidents to get people to “even better hands” to help.
Corcione successfully convinced the person to drop the weapon, and assisted the person in calming down even allowing him to conduct a pat down search, allowing emergency EMS staff to arrive and render treatment.
About half of the more than four dozen various law-enforcement agencies in Monmouth County have now had at least one CIT training participant to date. Keyport will be adding two more when the fourth round of training kicks off in October.
“The compassion and heart the officers provided to this individual in need saved a life, and we are hopeful that the person in crisis is getting the compassionate care that they need,” said acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey when she met with the patrolmen to thank them in person.
And when asked to summarize how CIT training guided his approach, Ptl. Koempel said, “Just sitting there talking to someone — and really listening — goes a long way.”