Winchester Police Cpl. Nathan J. Morris (left) and Sgt. Chaz Niang were honored on Nov. 19 for using their Crisis Intervention Training skills in separate incidents in October. The officers received "challenge coins" from Northwestern Community Services, which provides CIT certification to local police departments. 

WINCHESTER — Police Cpl. Nathan J. Morris and Sgt. Chaz Niang were honored on Thursday for putting their Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) skills to use.

The officers received "challenge coins" from Northwestern Community Services, an area drug treatment and mental health services provider that holds CIT certification classes for local police departments. The officers are the eighth and ninth officers to receive the awards since Northwestern began CIT classes in 2009, according to Donna Jeanne C. Trillio, Northwestern's CIT coordinator.

Trillio told about 20 officers receiving training who were present for the awards ceremony that the skills they learn help reduce violence and stigma about mental illness.

"Most importantly, you have the potential to impact the person's own perspective on their mental illness," she said. "Because when you live with stigma, you buy into the stigma. And you're less likely to get treatment."

The training is designed to help people experiencing a mental health crisis get help. And while the vast majority of people in crisis are non-violent, the training helps officers deescalate volatile situations where there is potential for violence.

Officers undergo 40 hours of training to become certified. The training includes how to develop rapport with people in crisis and includes learning what to listen for, what to say and how to display non-threatening body language.

Fifty-three of the Winchester Police Department's 74 officers are CIT-certified. All of Berryville's nine officers are as well, along with eight of the Clarke County Sheriff's Office's 22 full and part-time deputies and 27 of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office's 148 deputies.

Niang, a 32-year-old officer hired in 2015, was honored for an incident in the Crisis Intervention Training Assessment Center at Winchester Medical Center on Oct. 3. The assessment center, known as CITAC, is where people under eight-hour Emergency Custody Orders are dropped off by police for mental health evaluations by Northwestern personnel.

A man under an ECO became disturbed and Niang was unable to talk him down and had to physically subdue him. However, neither the man nor Niang were seriously injured in the scuffle due to the restraint Niang displayed. Trillio, who is also the CITAC coordinator, said Niang also prevented the man from hurting a Northwestern staffer who was nearby as well some of her colleagues.

"He managed to contain the patient even when the patient was actively throwing punches," said Trillio, who observed video of the altercation. "The size of this patient was significant and I have no doubt that Sgt. Niang's actions kept Mary and the other staff from potential serious injury."

Morris, a 34-year-old officer hired in 2011, was honored for defusing an incident on Oct. 5 at a Grafton location at 120 Bellview Ave. The area schools, run by Grafton Integrated Health Network, serve children with autism and other mental and physical  disabilities. A 9-year-old boy had become convinced he was going to be shot and had tried to kick out a window.

A month earlier, the boy had become violent, leading officers to handcuff him while taking him for treatment. However, Morris was able to develop rapport with the boy by talking to him about cars. He was able to drive the boy in a police cruiser for treatment without incident.

"He made such a difference in this impressionable youth's mind about how the situation could be handled," Deputy Chief Kelly S. Rice said, reading from a written statement about the incident. "He was very patient, kind and respectful to the youth."

Morris and Niang said after the ceremony that they use their CIT skills daily. They said the training has helped them become more patient and learn more about the types of medication and treatment mentally ill people need.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(8) comments


Nathan, it is because of men like you and what you deal with on a daily basis that people should give police the honor and dignity they really do deserve. Especially what you did to gain the trust and respect of this 9 year old boy.


We are very proud to have these officers stand as role models for how law enforcement officers *should* be trained and behave. Good work, officers.


This is how policing is supposed to work. To Serve and Protect. Thanks to all involved.


I agree, but when a perp has a deadly weapon and is trying to use it, Police have every right to use whatever means necessary to diffuse the situation.


Yes, we get it. You enjoy hearing another "thug" got what was coming to him. How dare the police attempt to apprehend someone alive and have them stand trial, right?


Two great guys (and handsome, too).


THANK YOU to both of these fine police officers for going above the call of duty and using their special training to defuse a bad situation. May they and other officers in Winchester & Frederick Ct continue to do excellent work. Happy Thanksgivings to you and your families.


Cpl. Nathan J. Morris and Sgt. Chaz Niang, I applaud you both. In a year when we have seen so many examples of policing done wrong, it wonderful to see it done right. In both of the scenarios in this article the civilians could have been hurt badly. But these two heros took the time to see the Humanity behind the threat. This is what real police work is all about. Keeping people safe something even from themselves in a time of crisis, not just neutralizing a target and then hiding behind the badge. I still think more time, effort, and of course money should be put into the real causes of crime (healthcare, education, poverty, etc). But you got the training, you used the training, and at the end of the day no one shiped out in a pine box. You make me proud to be a Virginian, and give me hope that this countries divides can heal. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU both, and all the other officers just like you, for making Va a better place. Stay safe out there.

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