UCF Police Officer Named Best in Region for Crisis Intervention

Posted April 27, 2018

Police officers take an oath to protect and serve, and for UCF Police Officer First Class Danielle Hughes ’13, that promise includes going the extra mile for a person in need.

Like when a young man with a history of suicidal thoughts expressed concern about being Baker Acted because he didn’t have anyone to pick him up after the holding period passed. Ofc. Hughes told him she would drive him home, and she did.

Or when a young woman threatened to jump off a third-floor stairwell after going through a dark time in a relationship. Ofc. Hughes pulled up a chair and consoled her for over an hour, telling her she would find happiness again.

For her outstanding service in these and other incidents involving people in crisis, Ofc. Hughes, a three-year UCFPD veteran, was named Central Florida’s Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year for 2017.

“I don’t do this for the recognition, I just want to help people,” Ofc. Hughes says. “It’s the reason I got into law enforcement.”

Ofc. Hughes joined UCFPD as a community service officer in February 2014 and worked her way up the ranks, first to a patrol officer in 2015, then to officer first class in July 2017, and most recently to detective. She’s done this all while furthering her education, currently pursuing a dual master’s degree in public administration and criminal justice.

The onset of mental health issues are typically found between the ages of 18 and 24, the age range of the average college student. And at UCF, the number of Baker Acts has risen consistently each year. Baker Acts can be instituted by physicians or law enforcement when a person is exhibiting signs of mental distress that pose danger, requiring the person to be institutionalized and monitored for 72 hours.

Students who are Baker Acted receive wrap-around treatment at UCF to keep them well and on-track for success. But the initial interaction with law enforcement — and officers’ caring push to seek help — are critical first steps.

It’s why UCFPD has become a regional leader in crisis intervention training, or CIT.

UCFPD officers have a history of doing the right thing and connecting students with help. Det. Melissa Guadagnino and Sgt. Adam Casebolt previously earned CIT Officer of the Year recognition in 2016 and 2010, respectively.

To be CIT certified, officers must go through 40 hours of crisis intervention training led by a local behavioral health partner. Nearly all UCFPD’s officers have completed this training. To keep up with the need for expertise in this area, UCFPD developed an in-house CIT training that serves as a refresher for officers who have already completed the full course and gives rookie officers a preview of the full class.

“Through CIT training and helping in a crisis, that’s how we can make the biggest impact in our community,” Ofc. Hughes says.