I had an opportunity to visit with Chief Barnes recently. I am encouraged by his belief in Community Policing, that every officer is a community officer, that to build trust between police and the community requires engagement around non-criminal activities.
Building this trust will be more than getting police officers out in the neighborhood. They need to feel supported by citizens also. I feel more and more that I am being pushed to pick between the police and social programs. Why would I want to make these two resources compete for funds? We need both the police and social programs to maintain a safe community – to address the needs of our community.
The ‘mental health’ responder service that is being prepared is a great example of how police and social support systems work together. The beginning service, starting with only specific hours of service available, is funded with dollars from the police budget. Where will we get funds to expand this program as a full service option?
We need to look at where our social support dollars are being spent and if we are getting the results we expect. My first question is, of the 21,486 police mental health service calls (2018-2020), how many were repeat calls? Are our interventions appropriate and useful to the individuals in need? Or are they just a bandaid until the next call?