“Sometimes when a person is in crisis, all they need to be is heard.” —Craig Stowell, Stearns County
Arrest scenarios in reality-based television shows like COPS seem to be chosen for the lurid thrill of heated confrontation—a belligerent, agitated detainee escalates in volume and tone along with the officers confronting him, until they resort to a hands-on approach, wrestling him to the ground or the side of the squad car, where they finally cuff and subdue him.
Repeated exposure to this kind of depiction of police procedures might make people believe that business-as-usual in departments around the country is based on a restrain first, ask questions later arrest policy. But some departments are finding that with proper training and commitment, difficult and potentially dangerous situations can often be controlled without the use of physical force and conclude with a mutually successful outcome.
Through the initiative of Craig Stowell, a 14-year veteran of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office in St. Cloud, Minnesota, officers there are often able to verbally de-escalate individuals in crisis and avoid physical confrontations. What might make for less-than-gripping television makes for improved safety all around.
A New Standard of Active Listening
In this episode of Unrestrained
, a CPI podcast, you’ll learn through Craig’s story how a departmental culture of practiced calm and verbal de-escalation evolved over a period of time, ultimately culminating in department-wide CPI training and a new standard of active listening and patience with individuals in crisis. The resulting benefits, according to Stowell, include fewer injuries for officers and persons detained or in custody, reduced litigation, and less paperwork.
Photo: Alan Budman / Shutterstock
The positive impact of CPI training inspired Stowell to take an important next step: “I’ve never seen any type of training here taken so well by staff, so I took it further and did a written proposal to the Minnesota Peace Officer standardization to get this approved for six hours of continuing education of a licensed officer,” notes Stowell. Ultimately, the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training
(POST) designated CPI training as an approved team education course, and officers trained are now eligible for continuing education credit.
In this brisk, informative interview, you’ll learn:
- How officer Stowell calmed an out-of-control man kicking and screaming in the back of a squad car. (2:21)
- Why you can’t compare one person’s crisis to another’s. (8:29)
- How officer Stowell countered another officer’s comment about CPI training: “This stuff is going to get us killed.” (13:30)
- How officer Stowell got CPI training approved by the Peace Officers Standard and Training board for six hours of continuing education credit. (16:42)
- How CPI training helped reduce use of force, injuries, and paperwork. (19:02)
- Why CPI training is more important to mental health facilities, including the VA system, than ever before. (24:10)
- How culture change in the department helped communication from becoming a lost art—especially for younger officers. (30:02)
- The first skill officer Stowell would recommend to fellow officers. (33:06)
And if this interview brought you insight about how verbal de-escalation skills can become an essential component of your
toolbox, make sure to check out our 2018 interview
with former police captain and violence prevention expert Kyle Weygandt, who shares how crisis responders can learn when therapeutic intervention will work—and when it won’t.
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Craig Richard Stowell is a 14-year veteran of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he currently serves as a CPI Certified Instructor and Crisis Intervention Officer/Tactical Certified EMT on the Special Operations Response Team. He has served as both a POST Certified Police Officer and Reserve Police Officer in the State of Minnesota. Craig has experience working with both a volunteer and a private ambulance service and was a certified flight EMT. He is an EMS instructor for St. Cloud Technical and Community College, a staff instructor for the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, and he holds a certification as a state and nationally registered emergency medical technician.
Full Episode Transcript
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Terry: Hello, and welcome to Unrestrained, a CPI podcast series. This is your host, Terry Vittone, and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Craig Stowell. He is a crisis intervention officer, staff instructor, CIT coordinator, and SORT medic with the Stearns County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota. He's also a CPI Certified Instructor.
Hello, and welcome, Craig.
Craig: Good morning, sir. How are you?
Terry: I'm well, thank you, Craig. How you doing?
Craig: We're doing good. We got a lot of snow and it's cold, but other than that, we're doing well.
Terry: All right. All right. I lived in Minneapolis from 85 to 90, so I remember the winters up there and—
Craig: Remember the winters, absolutely.
Terry: Yeah, so we're having quite a one down here as well, so—but let me tell our audience a little about you. Craig Stowell has been with the Stearns County Sheriff's Office in St. Cloud, Minnesota for the last 14 years, and he's currently working as an instructor and crisis intervention officer, a Tactical Certified EMT on the Special Operations Response Team. He has served as both a POST, that's a Peace Officer Standards and Training certified police officer, and reserve police officer in the State of Minnesota.
He holds a certification as a state and nationally registered emergency medical technician, and he has experience working with both the volunteer and private ambulance service, and was a certified flight EMT. Craig is also an EMS instructor for St. Cloud Technical & Community College and a staff instructor for the Minnesota Sheriff's Association.
Today, we're going to talk with Craig about his experiences with CPI training and techniques on the job, as well as how he's able to facilitate Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training so effectively in a law enforcement setting. All right, Craig. Let's start today with a real life story about how CPI training and techniques helped make a situation that could have turned violent have a different outcome.
Craig: Well, of course, I do have multiple stories I could tell you, but we don't have the time for that. So, the one that I think was probably, excuse me, was a situation which a local police officer was bringing somebody into the jail, and was calling ahead for assistance to the jail. They were having some problems with the individual. He was out of control, was screaming and kicking. And I happened to be in the building at the time and I heard the radio call, and so I responded up to the vehicle’s sally port where the officer would be coming in.
When the officer arrived, of course, there was somebody in the back seat screaming, yelling, kicking the screen, and pretty much out of control. So, as the officer was getting out of the vehicle to secure his weapons and all of this, there were several of the jail officers there. I asked the sergeant, I said, "Can I give this a try?" And she was like, "Absolutely." I stuck my head in the front of the vehicle and identified myself, and the little bit of information I got from the police officer was I knew his name and the officer had stated that he had been claiming to be a veteran.
So using that information, I stated my name and, again, that I was a crisis intervention officer, and I said, "I understand your name is so and so, and that you are a veteran." He then immediately stopped. He's like, "Yeah, I'm a veteran." I said, "I'm a veteran, too, so I appreciate your service. Thank you for that." With that little bit of information, that little bit of connection, we had already begun to de-escalate. I think within, probably two to three minutes of me listening to him and conversing with him, we had totally de-escalated from a very violent situation to a very calm situation, to the point where I explained that now we needed to proceed, we needed to move forward with what had happened because everything that had happened with the officer on the street needed to be done.
And he agreed with that, and so I said—simply, I said, "You're going to need to follow your instructions with the officers now as we open the door, and we'll go along with that." I said, "I will walk with you through the entire process." I said, "If you need anything, you say my name, but please follow the instructions, and the officer's instructions, and everything will go just fine." He said, "Okay." I nodded to the officers to open the door and they did, and I did accompany him all the way through the searching and the intake process, and right to the point in the cell. Once he was in the cell, I conversed with him for a few minutes, and he simply lay down and went to sleep.
We had no violence whatsoever because of those few minutes of active listening and me engaging with him and calling him. And I think we took what would have been a very, very violent situation, and made it calm.
Terry: Wow. How old a guy was he?
Craig: He was probably early 30s, I'm thinking.
Terry: Was he impaired in some way?
Craig: He was not, not a—well, there might have been some alcohol involved, but no physical impairments or anything like that, but I do believe there was a little bit of alcohol involved.
Terry: I see. You told me something in our pre-interview which I think is great. You said, "Calmness is contagious," and it sounds like this really—you established rapport with him through your commonality of both being veterans, and just de-escalated—and had a classic de-escalation there. It's a great story. I mean, do you—would it be typical for you to have that kind of time to work with—go with somebody through processing? I mean, is that something that an officer can take the initiative or have the time to do? I mean, it sounds like it should be, if it isn't.
Craig: It's taken a few years, I gotta admit, for us to get to this point. We have worked very hard. I've worked very diligently with my administration, with my sergeants, jail sergeants, court sergeants, etc., to explain how this is effective. And now, we're getting to that point—in fact, I just had a meeting last week with the jail sergeants because we have five new CIT instructor officers that are on board now. And explaining how they can be used and things like this, and they are all CPI trained, and so it's been very effective with that. And now they're finding that taking the time, well, first off, it de-escalates. There's no doubt about that. Second off, it reduces injuries to both the officers and the persons coming in custody or are in custody or in court, or wherever this is taking place. And we're allowed to have the time that we need, and that's what's actually made it effective. It's not like we have a one-minute window or a two-minute window.
Terry: I see.
Craig: They're allowing the CIT or the CPI officer the time to do that, so—
Terry: I see.
Craig: That's what makes it effective.
Terry: All right. And that's—so, CIT being for our audience Crisis Intervention Training?
Craig: It is. It's Crisis Intervention Training, and it's more focused on the mental health issues, and that's where they focus.
Terry: I see. So, Craig, how did you initially find yourself at CPI training? Who suggested or compelled you to take the training?
Craig: Yeah. So, it was actually ironic. My lieutenant was looking for some type of interpersonal communication classes or something of this nature. It was pretty funny because I just went on the computer and I put in either "crisis intervention" or "de-escalation" or something like that that we were looking for and CPI came up. I had never heard of this before. I clicked on it, read it. "Oh, that thing sounds pretty good. This meets our criteria. Oh, and look, they happen to have one right here in St. Cloud," and that was like two weeks away or three weeks away.
And so, I sent that to him and he was, "That's exactly what we're looking." So that's what initiated it.
Terry: I see. So, you go to training, and let's talk about your mindset going in and how it changed, your initial reaction to training—between the initial reaction to the conclusion. Could you tell that story for us?
Craig: Sure. Absolutely. Of course, I went in. I was trying to be positive because this is something I, you know, was a believer in, but not being very educated on it and stuff. I went in there and I was okay. I didn't have a real open mind. It was a very large class. Excuse me. I believe Matt and Lesley were the Instructors.
Terry: Okay. That's Matt Danek and Lesley Rynders.
Craig: That's correct, yes. So, as this began, I was listening to a story—so I was listening to a lot of things that had taken place, and I was kind of out of sorts because one of the situations that was brought up and talked at, at length was a student, it sounds like a very young student in a school who was having issues because the classroom was too loud, and he would have all kinds of problems and end up in a crisis. And so, I was like, "Wow, okay. A little different than what I deal with, but okay."
And so, during the first break, I got Mr. Danek in the hallway there and I, kind of, explained, I said, "Well, I think my idea of a crisis and what we're talking about here is completely different." And he goes, "But is it really?" I said, "I think so. I don't know." He says, "Well, let's talk about it when the class resumes." So, the class resumed and Mr. Danek, in such a classic way, and he calls me out, I stand up, introduce myself, explain who I am, what I'm doing, why I'm there. We talked about that. We talked about one individual's crisis and another individual's crisis, and got a lot of feedback from the group who I very much appreciated, educated me on how you can't compare one person's crisis to another person's crisis, because if it's to the point that they're having a meltdown, a breakdown, a release, whatever we wanna call it, I can't compare that to anybody else because it is still affecting them in that manner. And when I was done, I kinda sat back in my chair, I was like, "Okay, I get this. It makes sense." So my mind was totally open right then and there because of the simplicity of it, that you can't compare one person's crisis to another's. I was like, "All right."
So, for the rest of the week, I had a fully open mind and it totally changed my approach and my thought process. And if you wanna go back to the "Calmness is contagious," that is Mr. Danek's phrase, I have that printed. I have that hanging above my desk because that has—
Craig: That statement has lived with me for the entire time.
Terry: It certainly sounds like you had that totally in play with the gentleman who was in the back seat of the car kicking and who had identified himself as a veteran. And that your whole approach, the calm and the establishing rapport just caught—I mean, you said in a matter of minutes, he was calm like you were.
Craig: It was. That was absolutely perfect. And I know even through all these years, they're not all perfect by any means and some don't work, but this one was perfect. And I went back to my CPI training, and like you said, the establishing the rapport initially, I was able to get that right away, which I was very fortunate to get. And that's what helped de-escalate.
Terry: So, were there any issues with approval? I mean, how did you go about getting this through the department?
Craig: Well, there was initially—the cost and everything had not been budgeted for something this large, and so when we did this, it needed the approval from a lot of people downstairs. And so, my captain and my lieutenant were very positive on this, so they sent it through with an explanation, and the sheriff that we had at the time and their administration was like, "How do we deny something like this if it's going to be positive?" And, you know, to be very honest, and not to simplify anything, but the cost of workers' comp right now is so expensive and everything. If we can de-escalate and maybe solve some injuries to ourselves or even to people in custody and stuff like that, why would we not take that opportunity?
So, they replied, actually very quickly and were very positive and approved it instantly.
Terry: I see.
Craig: So, I was able to get into a course right here in St. Cloud through that. So, it was positive all the way where everybody's administration that needed to go, so they were good with that.
Terry: I see. When you put it in the light of return on investment by decreasing workers' comp cost, I mean, it gets hard to really to—not at least consider seriously de-escalation training where it can save you money and, not to mention, that's even secondary to personal safety and wellbeing on both sides of the law.
Craig: Now, we see it—if you excuse the expression, that's a no brainer now. So, that's where we're at.
Terry: All right. Now, as a trainer yourself, as a Certified Instructor, we talked about this, how did you counter another police officer who's said to you, "This 'stuff' is going to get us killed." He said that about CPI training. How do you counter an attitude like that from a fellow officer?
Craig: Yeah, it was an expletive in there.
Craig: Yeah. He just flat-out said it to my face, and first off, I was kinda taken aback. And I simply said, I said, "Or it could save someone's life." That was my only rebuttal at the time because I hadn't been approached like that. I think that was just coming from me that, "Yeah, it can go bad, absolutely, but it could go good. So, why not take the chance of it going good?" was my thought process. If I could add on to that story—
Craig: —he didn't speak to it for a little while, but after he took the course, there was no more doubt. He bought into it, if you will. He's a Blue Card® carrier.
Terry: All right.
Craig: And he's also—he's a part of the Special Operations Response Team and he understands it now. I don't know if I changed a whole lot of thought, but at least, he understood where we were coming from. So, I think—I don't know if we changed his mind totally, but we changed his thought process.
Terry: I see. Let me go after a deeper dive on this one. When you say there's a—taking a chance on this "stuff is going to get us killed," does taking a few extra moments to de-escalate or having the mindset of verbal de-escalation, and least, you know, hands-on only, if requirement, does it really increase the risk that an officer is in when confronting a citizen who might be presenting dangerous, or perceived to be dangerous behavior?
Craig: Sure. You know, and every situation is different. It doesn't matter if you're in the street, in the courts, in the jails, or wherever law enforcement is working, in the schools, whatever. If there is an opportunity to de-escalate, that is the most proper. As long as there's not an imminent threat or a danger or anything like that, absolutely. I think to take the time and try to establish a rapport, maybe even listen why the person is in crisis, and start working from there and branching off as we can to find what's going on, I think, taking the time to do that is the best thing we can do, even as humans for each other.
Because the fact that somebody is in a crisis, when we take the time to listen, that automatically, to me, begins the de-escalation right there. And that, to me—I'm probably going off your question here too much, but to see that in a person too, you can see them de-escalate, you can see the calmness coming over them. And in trying to establish that rapport that, to me, is just the most satisfying thing there is. And I think even in law enforcement, sometimes we're—and it was my fault too because I tend to talk too much and give too many directives and things like this.
But for me to reverse that and listen a little bit, has made a world of a difference in how I communicate with another person.
Terry: I see. You wrote here in one of our email exchanges about this interview. You said, "I've never seen any type of training here taken so well by staff, so I took it further and did a written proposal to the Minnesota Peace Officer standardization to get this approved for six hours of continuing education of a licensed officer." Could you tell that story?
Craig: Well, yeah. First off, our staff—it must've been, what, three years now, I think, when I started this, is we instantly just made it part of our classroom so that all the officers receive this six hours of training. Immediately after we started this, I saw such a positive thing on this, so I thought, you know, "We might as well—let's run this past the POST board," which is further accreditation to add on for us and for CPI. And so, there's a long proposal, it's a long process, okay, but I wrote it to the Minnesota POST board, the Peace Officers Standardization and Training section.
The proposal to CPI, I sent in one of the workbooks. I explained how we do what we're doing. Everything—it was a long process. I sent that into the POST board. Within, probably about three weeks, we had received approval for the CPI to be an approved team education course in the state of Minnesota. And so, that affected all of our officers that are licensed by the state of Minnesota for continuing education, also for six hours. So, it was a double thing, that we got further accreditation and in any type of litigation or anything like that, it's just one more tool that helps us with that.
And plus the fact that now they can get can continuing education for those six hours, so it was a win-win again. It took a little bit of work, but I think it was worth it. I think I was so excited when I got that email. I think I called Mr. Danek almost immediately and let him know. It was unbelievable. I was just saying, "We got this. This is huge." And so, we took it in stride and on we go and now it continues. Our certification's good. We plan on renewing that. I think it expires in 2020, if I'm not mistaken. And we will just simply renew that.
Terry: Excellent. I have a question here. What would you say to another police department considering CPI training? And you mentioned to me that you believe it's reduced your use of force and your injuries. Could you speak to that a little bit?
Craig: Well, first off, let me speak on that. There's no doubt, and if I could digress a little bit—
Terry: Sure, please do.
Craig: The week that I took my training, which I believe was in July, I think it was like late September, early October, but we have what's called move-in day. We have five major colleges in the same code area— Excuse me. And all of those students move there at the same time. Excuse me a second.
We end up with the jail being overwhelmed. It's flooded just when they move in. So, my boss, my captain—
Terry: Can I ask you what sort of arrests you make around that scenario?
Craig: It's a lot of intoxication—
Terry: I see.
Craig: A lot of young people who haven't been away from home. They're acting out. They're intoxicated, things like this. There's some older people that have been there for a while and they've taken one law class and they know the constitution and everything.
Terry: Oh, boy.
Craig: They may end up in trouble with law enforcement officers. So, my captain says, "Since you have this training, Craig, would you be willing to work in the jail in the intake and help out with this? Maybe we can de-escalate." And so, by utilizing this, I said, "Absolutely." So, I appeared in the jail that night and worked a long shift with them in doing intakes, and I don't know if the grace of whoever, we had zero use of force on that one night that I was there.
Terry: That's remarkable.
Craig: Zero. Even I kinda shook my head and went, "Wow. Where did this come from?" My boss was so—it was unbelievable. We did have one situation where an individual came in and was quite upset, quite angry. I was able to de-escalate, get him through some of it. We didn't do an intake on him. He got searched and patted down and actually he was going to be placed into a cell because of his behavior. He didn't wanna go into the cell, yelling and screaming, and I talked with him, talked with him, talked with him, de-escalated. Got him in the cell, they got the door closed, and I turned around and my sergeant did the bowing motion to me, akin to the gesture.
Craig: And I just said—gave him a thumbs-up and on we go. So, it works. That's all I can say.
Terry: I mean, besides the fact that people remain safe doesn't it just cut your paperwork a ton too?
Craig: Absolutely. Absolutely. If we can reduce paper work and reduce litigation and everything, absolutely, everybody's happy. The staff was happy too, believe it or not, because that's just—it's more work, it's more—they don't wanna be hurt. Things like that, so, absolutely. That was just a win. That was huge.
Terry: I'm smiling here just thinking of that. That's just a zero, none, that shows that people are really, I guess, actively listening and stepping back and remaining calm, all the things that you stressed earlier. In the field of law enforcement, or people that are put in harm's way, or may encounter lethal force, you hear the argument, "It's all well and good, but it won't work for our population." I'm sure you get that argument. How do you speak to that? How do you counter that argument?
Craig: Well, of course, you know, any time there is lethal force involved, there is a consideration there. That's totally different. But in some of the encounters that we have seen just with the escalating violence there is in the world, I think if the opportunity arises, the de-escalation technique can be used. I know it's been used for years in certain situations. If we go back even to the 80s when SWAT teams were developed through things like this, that one of the first things they put on there was a negotiator. And the negotiators were talking, calming, establishing rapport. Boy, does that sound familiar, you know?
And so, I think it was just brought out more, and I do not know the entire history of CPI and the creation, but a lot of it was based on things like that. And that has come to the forefront now and in people that—where we have a minute, like, a barricaded suspect or a hostage situation, things like that, that's where this type of thing works. Because we can talk, we can communicate, we can de-escalate. Now, not obviously in a millisecond burst of violence can we stop and do that, but when there's an opportunity and it's taken, I think it's had more positive results than not.
Terry: I see. You have something you wrote here that I really think is important. You say, "To the correctional staff, I say you have people suffering from a multitude of emotions, crisis-type situations on a daily basis. That's really the type of empathy, I think, that really makes our program work." Could you talk about that just a little bit for me?
Craig: We do and Minnesota is—and I'm comparing this to our little section of the world here.
Craig: There's not a lot of help for mental health right now. There's a lot of money that's been taken away. The hospitals are—a lot of the hospitals have been closed and the behavioral health and things like this. And so we're seeing a lot more of that coming into the jails, coming into the courts. A lot more interaction with law enforcement, and so, in my opinion, you're dealing with a wide variety if you consider now you have mental health, and now you have alcohol or drugs, and things like this. So, the communication has become very important with that and we spend a lot of time.
And that was why we also sent five people to the CIT to learn more about mental health to add that to the CPI. And so, for us, the mental health is big around here, and I'll add to that. Our VA hospital that we have here in St. Cloud is a mental health facility. So people come from the entire region, which is probably about—I don't know, about a fourth or a fifth in the nation to this hospital.
Craig: So we see a lot of mental health people in our community because of that.
Terry: Really? So you have a dramatic opportunity there with that population to put CPI techniques into motion with people who really need that type of understanding and patience.
Craig: Absolutely. That's just one more tool that we have in our belt, if you will, that we can use. When you're dealing with veterans, you wanna have respect and dignity and everything like this, and we have to understand their situation. When you're dealing with somebody who has PTSD, things like this, from what I've seen, you know, excluding like schizophrenia and things like this, you have somebody that has PTSD and they've got into a crisis, this is perfect.
The CPI training is absolutely perfect because there's nothing better than active listening. Listening, calming, discussing, working things out, maybe, you know, not having the answers, but just communicating with them and understanding possibly what they're going through, or at least letting them vocalize, so that we don't get to the escalated point of violence. That's where CPI is perfect. It works. I've seen it. We do it all the time. So, that's a big positive for us, and I know the VA will never understand or recognize what takes place in the community that way, but that's one of the things that's taking place, is CPI is making a difference for those veterans.
Terry: Well said. Now, I understood that your group stood out at a recent CIT training. Would you tell our listeners what CIT training involves and just why your group stood out?
Craig: Sure. The Minnesota POST board—again, I'm referring back to them, is required that all peace officers have 16 hours of CIT training over a period of 3 years. So, it's gotten really big in Minnesota. Excuse me. The CIT is basically designed for dealing with people with mental health issues. There are some de-escalation and some listening and things like this, not to the extent of CPI. So, anyway, we had the opportunity to host one of these sessions. We had an instructor, I won't name the department, but he came up from that department. [He was a] well-established sergeant in that department and very, very good.
And we hosted this, so we had people from many counties come and take this training. I had four officers besides myself in there, and they were handpicked for this course. And as we were going through, you could just see how they excelled in so many ways. A big portion of this training was scenario-based. Professional actors are brought in to act out somebody who is bipolar and having a crisis. Somebody who is schizophrenic having a crisis, or PTSD and having a crisis.
So, a lot of this was very, very, very intense scenario-based and the officers would have to communicate and de-escalate everything. My officers having the CPI background just blew everybody out of the water. I sat in the back and I just smiled because I was so proud because you could see their CPI skills just right off the bat. I mean, it was—they just went right down the checklist, if you will. You know, they're going through all of their skills and they're using their tactics. Everything, they're going through all this and maintaining safe space, taking a positive stance from—in all of this.
Our officers, my other four officers that took this besides me were just phenomenal. I even had a couple of officers that I know from other counties, just like, "Man, you people really know this stuff. This is good." I said, "No, this is their first time doing this too. They have CPI training to back that up." "Oh, what's CPI?" "Well, let me tell you."
So, our officers excelled at that, and it was because of CPI training. So, even after we had training—I had training now with my CIT instructors here just a couple weeks ago, that was one of the things we talked about. Is how well they excelled at that and that's why we are, as a department, are going to continue CPI. I actually spoke with Mr. Danek not too long ago about how we're going to go through our refresher trainings and better get this set up because we haven't gotten that far yet because we were just completing initials.
So, all of our new officers coming into the department from now on will receive CPI trainings, full six hours of that. And then they're going to receive at least one to two hours of refresher training as they go on, as we continue. So, yes, our officers excelled at the CIT training because of CPI.
Terry: I see. It sounds like that since you have been involved with CPI training, Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training, and training other officers that—would you say that there is a, sort of, a culture shift in your department?
Craig: Very big. You can't even— I don't even have words to explain. I have seen a complete shift in people's abilities to talk now. There's still a few. There always will be not good communicators, and not to be a little bit generational or anything, but I've seen it with the younger people coming in that their communication skills are not as good as they should be. And I think that's because of our electronic society, they text, they tweet, things like that. So, communication has become a lost art.
Craig: We're trying to bring that back with our new officers, the younger ones, working on them their communication—excuse me. If they go through CPI training and stuff, when we run these scenarios that allows them to communicate, you can see an improvement within the three weeks initially that they're with me for training, and you can see that their communication skills have gotten better. And again, we associate that with the CPI and then what we're trying to do.
Terry: Excellent. Craig, to wrap today, I want to ask you this. I mean, I really appreciate your enthusiasm and your embrace of CPI training and techniques and how you discussed how it's changed the culture and reduced injuries, and had a lot of benefits. Also, I think you've been really a good advocate to make the training spread throughout your region. I understand you've even reached into Ramsey County and St. Paul and—
Craig: Yeah, they've had the opportunity—this was a little while ago, I was in a training session in the Twin Cities, and it was a suicide awareness training. So everybody was there and during one of the trainings I was speaking at, I explained that our officers obviously have CPI training, so we have some de-escalation, which can help in suicidal situations. During one of the breaks, I was approached by a female and she identified herself, and she was administrator with Ramsey County, which is the City of St, Paul, a very large county.
And she says, "All of your people?" I said, "All of our people. Every person on our staff has a Blue Card® initially, and receives training in CPI."
Craig: And you could just see her lean back in her chair and go, "I don't—how do you do that?" I said, "We just did it. It was just a matter of undergoing it. I took a few steps, I had to jump through a few hoops, but we thought it was worth it." And I said, "We haven't taken statistics. We just started in January of 2019, now I am monitoring and we have a form people fill out whenever they use, any type of skill like that."
She was just blown away. She said she wanted more information and I gave her more information. I don't know if she pursued it or not, but here, we have probably a county that's five times our size that was just, "Wow, you guys do this? It's unbelievable."So, they were very, very impressed.
Terry: I see. If you could teach all the police departments in the United States one aspect of crisis prevention, what would that be?
Craig: Well, listening.
Terry: Listening, huh?
Craig: We don't listen. All law enforcement officers—again, it doesn't matter if you're on the road, in the courts, in the jails, in the schools, we tend to direct and give orders, and we don't always listen. And sometimes, a few minutes of listening can make the difference in a person's life, can make the difference in your life, and can de-escalate to a point where we may have a positive resolution, or at least, some type of rapport so that we can continue that rapport in the future if we need.
Sometimes when a person is in crisis, all they need to be is heard. And I have found that that is very effective and you can establish that very quickly, so it's not a big, huge time-consuming thing. In the first few minutes of speaking with someone, you can find out if they want to be heard, or if they're just a burst of anger that they're not going to listen there. You know, they're just blurting. So, to me, I think we need to listen more. We do a good job, but we can do it better.
Terry: Well said. Thank you, Craig. My guest today on Unrestrained has been Craig Stowell. He is a crisis intervention officer and a staff instructor, and a medic with the Stearns County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota. Thank you so much, Craig.
Craig: I appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.
Terry: And thank you all for listening.