A Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been honored for his ability to assist students with emotional and behavioral disabilities.
The Collier County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recently named Cpl. Stephen Crafton as Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Officer of the Year for 2015.
Cpl. Crafton was selected from more than 600 CIT-trained officers in Collier County.
Crisis intervention team training is a program that was specifically designed to improve the way law enforcement and the community respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Originally established as collaboration between NAMI Memphis, Tenn., and Memphis police, the training has now inspired 2,800 communities in 45 states across the country to offer this program. The Collier County NAMI chapter has had more than 900 CIT graduates.
Sheriff Kevin Rambosk has made CIT training a priority for CCSO. Nearly every member of CCSO has been trained, including all command staff.
Cpl. Crafton is very involved with the students at Gulfview Middle School, where he has been assigned as a youth relations deputy for the past three years. He interacts with them daily, promoting positive relationships between law enforcement and students.
His special attention to the emotional/behavioral disabilities (EBD) classroom has made a notable impact on the special needs students at the school.
Cpl. Crafton’s daily routine has helped foster a positive rapport among the students, staff and himself, which has led to a nurturing environment in the EBD Unit. On any given day, Cpl. Crafton can be found visiting the EBD students in the classroom, eating lunch with them and showing interest in their daily activities.
Youth Relations Bureau Sgt. Thad Rhodes said there have been many times that Cpl. Crafton has been called to the EBD classroom to assist with a student who was having apparent difficulty getting through their day.
“Cpl. Crafton’s calm demeanor and understanding of how to get on the students’ level to communicate has de-escalated a number of incidences which could have resulted in a problematic situation for the school,” Sgt. Rhodes wrote in his letter nominating Cpl. Crafton for the award.
One of the problems Cpl. Crafton faces on a daily basis is a student from the EBD classroom running off campus. His immediate response to students running off campus has effectively demonstrated his desire to ensure the safety of all students at the school, regardless of the situation, said Sgt. Rhodes.
Cpl. Crafton’s rapport with EBD students has led to a decrease in the number of incidents in the classroom, said Sgt. Rhodes.
“The students in the EBD Unit have developed a supportive relationship with Cpl. Crafton, and when struggling to get through their day have asked their teachers if they can visit with Cpl. Crafton to cool down,” said Sgt. Rhodes.