COLLIN SPILINEK Fremont Tribune
With its co-sponsor program and new community service officers, Fremont Police Chief Jeff Elliott said the department has been helped tremendously.
“It is evident that while many people call the police in situations because they don’t know who else to call, the police are not, in their traditional role, always in a position to best respond to these situations. “, did he declare. “And we’re trying to diversify to allow a better community response for situations that don’t necessarily call for law enforcement.”
Through the program, FPD has three community service workers who respond to non-emergency situations, as well as a behavioral health specialist to deal with cases of mental health issues.
In 2017, Elliott said FPD received a federal grant for a part-time mental health co-advocate from Lutheran Family Services, who worked 20 hours per week in Fremont and the other 20 in Omaha.
The co-worker accompanied the police on calls where mental health was an issue, including threats of suicide, alcohol or drug use, and other social services.
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“The Mental Health Co-Advocate was designed to try to help these people find resources other than police resources to resolve some of their issues,” Elliott said.
Additionally, Elliott said the mental health co-advocate is better trained to deal with some of the issues these people present than the police.
“So part of the goal is that when we take that person there, it doesn’t turn into an execution situation,” he said.
City administrator Brian Newton said in a city update that the use of co-sponsors began in the late 1990s in California and has been adopted by police departments across the country since then.
The co-facilitator program aims to provide crisis de-escalation and behavioral health screening and assessment to avoid unnecessary incarceration and alternative care in unrestricted environments.
“I commend Chief Elliot for implementing measures to respond more effectively to non-emergency calls,” Newton said in the update.
Although the co-sponsor program ended in 2019, Elliott said he finds the role extremely beneficial for the department.
“My staff were all begging me to get this post back, so I spoke with Brian Newton and we adjusted our staffing so that we could fit this post back into the police budget,” he said.
The budget, approved in September, also allowed for the addition of three community service officers. Compared to a police officer, a community service officer handles municipal ordinance violations and animal control issues.
For example, Elliott said if a dog was on the loose or if someone had been bitten by it a year ago, the police should answer calls.
“Now the CSOs are taking care of it and the police have more time to enforce proactive traffic, to patrol, to investigate more deeply, things like that,” he said.
Along with the return of the mental health co-sponsor, Elliott said he was happy to see the addition of CSOs.
“I think these two programs will be very beneficial,” he said. “I think over the past 10 years a lot has changed in law enforcement, and this is our attempt to change over time.”