Novato police tackle serious issues, saving lives in lip sync challenge

- The lip sync challenge sweeping the nation features law enforcement officers singing and dancing, to show that cops have fun, too. 

But a North Bay department met the challenge another way- with a video about mental health awareness and suicide.  

"Certainly we're watching all the lip syncs ourselves," Novato Police Chief Adam McGill told KTVU on Thursday, "but we wondered how are we going to move the needle?"

Novato's force decided not to go for laughs but to save lives.

"It can be hard, it can be so hard, but you gotta live right now," sings rapper Logic in the song the department chose. 

To those lyrics, Novato PD's video portrays police responding to crisis calls: people who are depressed, suicidal, and overdosing on drugs. 

Scenes show officers reaching out to troubled people, racing into homes, and reviving an unconscious man. 

"In fact, the officer you see in the video was the first one in Marin County to save a life with Narcan, so he's actually done it before," said McGIll, watching the five minute video. "This is how we all feel, what the song says, we want you to live, we want you to be alive."

Across the Bay Area and the nation, law enforcement agencies are polishing their dance moves, and singing skills, creating some slick results, and even enlisting celebrities to appear. 

Departments who post videos challenge others to do the same.   

"Whether we get one view or a million views as long as a person in crisis sees this video, it's worth it," said Novato police officer Antonio Rodriguez, who was featured lip syncing to the anti-suicide song. 

He is already seeing results, after just one day, and tens of thousands of views. 

"I was actually recognized by about four people at the coffee shop this morning, and that was quite an experience," laughed Rodriguez. 

Fellow officer Carolina Zepeda is also featured lip syncing.

The scenes were shot in the underground garage at police headquarters downtown. 

"It took a couple of takes but once we got into it, it was pretty easy,"  Zepeda told KTVU, "once we got into a flow it was really enjoyable to do."

Portions of the video also depict officers suffering emotional anguish. 

The mental health message is aimed squarely at law enforcement, because officers who suffer in isolation are at risk for suicide.

"Suicide takes more first responders than any other cause of death every year," explained McGill, "in fact three times as many officers and firefighters kill themselves each year than are killed by someone else." 

The script for the video was crafted by a detective, more accustomed to writing reports, than fictional scenes. 

Detective Laura Houser also makes an appearance on camera, arriving at a mock suicide scene where she is too late. 

"With this lip sync challenge, we're kind of at the tail end of it, so we felt with this platform, really putting out a message like that was important to us," Houser told KTVU. 

Her hopes for the video?

"If we can save one life, and I feel that's already been done."

Houser says on Tuesday, she was alerted to someone who had seen the video and decided to seek help.

Novato's chief, and his command staff, approved the concept but had no part in making the video.

They saw it for the first time when it was finished.   

"We were silent, just stunned by the quality and the emotional impact it leaves on you. So we're really really proud of the work they did," said McGill.

The video was produced during off-hours at no cost to the department.  Now, Novato is challenging other agencies to share the video, and prevent potential suicides. 

 The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

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