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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Editor’s Note: This is the first segment of a two-part series describing the teams employed by the university to respond in crisis situations.

The University of Florida has no SWAT team.

Instead, the University Police Department employs a Critical Incident Response Team, or CIRT, that responds to high-risk emergency situations.

Last month, five UPD officers, including members of CIRT, were involved in a two-hour standoff with Ghanaian graduate student Kofi Adu-Brempong in Corry Village.

After posting threatening notes on his windows and trying to strike police officers with a metal rod,  Adu-Brempong was shot in the face by UPD officer Keith Smith with a .223 caliber rifle, according to a UPD report.

The rifle is part of the standard gear for members of CIRT.

The CIRT program began in 2002. About 10 officers are issued CIRT gear at a time because of budget constraints, said UPD Lt. Robert Wagner.

Like a SWAT team, CIRT officers are equipped with semi-automatic rifles, thick armor vests and helmets, Wagner said.

Unlike most SWAT teams, members of CIRT do not exclusively handle emergency situations.

Most of the time, CIRT members work as regular police officers. They provide campus security, break up underage drinking parties and issue parking tickets.

The possession of additional gear is the only difference between CIRT members and normal UPD officers, Wagner said. No additional training is required for CIRT, except rifle certification, he said.

“I hate that it’s called a team,” he said. “It’s not a SWAT team in any way, shape or form.”

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At least two CIRT officers are on patrol during every shift, he said, though not all CIRT officers are assigned to patrol. Some have worked in the investigation division, community services division or in training, Wagner said.

While on patrol, the helmets, rifles and vests remain in the backs of the police cars until they are needed.

Whenever the police radio dispatch describes a  difficult situation, CIRT members are expected to “jump the call,” he said, and drive to the scene.

All UPD officers, and therefore all members of CIRT, are trained to the same level as the Gainesville Police Department officers, said UF President Bernie Machen in a phone interview.

Both GPD and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office have SWAT teams that have jurisdiction to help on campus if necessary.

The UPD CIRT is only one of several team-based organizations related to the Adu-Brempong incident.

It should not be confused with the UF Critical Response Team or the Crisis Identification Response Team, both of which are organizations to promote mental health among students. They are part of the UF Dean of Students Office and the Counseling and Wellness Center.

Additionally, the Crisis Intervention Team is a third-party training course designed to teach police officers about mental health issues. The Crisis Intervention Team is associated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Although several of the officers who were present in Adu-Brempong’s apartment at the time of the shooting had undergone CIT training, the shooter, Keith Smith had not been through the course, said Bruce Stevens, the co-president of Gainesville’s National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter.

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