SAN JOSE - The San Jose Police Department is launching a new program as part of efforts to reform policing. A mental health crisis response team that pairs clinicians with officers to improve service outcomes during a crisis.
On Thursday, team members displayed the different uniforms, gray polos and black pants, that are a visual indicator of the different mission. Rookie officer Emerald Perkins volunteered for extra training to qualify for the posting.
“We’re able to meet people in the community and help them where they’re at,” she said.
Department brass said leaders applied for a funding grant for the team two years ago. Long before national calls to reform policing, San Jose’s police chief sought a different approach to mental health service calls involving his officers.
“We were getting into serious incidents with individuals that were in mental crisis, and our officers needed help dealing with these situations. It’s not the panacea, but now finally we have some funding,” said Police Chief Eddie Garcia.
The team consists of two San Jose police offices, one sergeant, and a clinician from the Santa Clara County Department of Behavioral Health Services(BHSD). The goal is to prevent a mental health crisis from escalating into the use of deadly force to subdue a suspect.
“Clinicians are able to provide crisis assessment, verbal de-escalation, crisis intervention. As well as providing linkage with resources from behavioral health services are not able to provide,” said Mikelle Le, division director for BHSD. Added Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, “One of the most important things we want is for every situation to be de-escalated to the degree that everybody leaves safe.”
Chief Garcia said the length of service for an officer is inconsequential to their ability to perform well on the new team.
“As long as we’re looking at these officers that are specially trained, and teaming them up with clinicians, it’s something we’re hopeful these incidents will end up a lot more positive,” he said. Added Perkins, “It’s not the tools that we process on our belt. But being able to communicate with them and talk to them so that we’re able to offer them the help that they need.”
In addition to responding to emergency calls, team members will do outreach on subjects who’ve had a history of needing mental help services to make sure they’re still getting the care they need.
The pilot program comes with a cost of $750,000 and continues until October of 2021.