Overland Park police psychological well being disaster groups understaffed


Sgt. Stewart Introduced of the Overland Park Disaster Motion Crew is pictured in a police division picture.

The Overland Park Police Division

The Overland Park Disaster Motion Crew was able to develop final September from 5 members to 18.

However 9 months after the growth was permittedtheir crew, which incorporates cops and co-responders, remains to be incomplete with solely 10 folks.

The six psychological well being co-responder positions are crammed with two latest hires, however there are nonetheless solely 4 specifically educated cops on the crew.

The crew is a partnership between the Overland Park Police Division and the Johnson County Psychological Well being Division to answer psychological well being calls with professionals educated in disaster intervention. The Overland Park Psychological Well being Job Power really useful the growth final yr and the metropolis ​​council voted 9-1 to approve the funds final September that included a rise in property taxes for the crew. Additionally they obtained practically $ 250,000 from the Division of Justice.

Their aim is to pair specifically educated officers with licensed psychological well being professionals to answer psychological well being calls. Officers undergo disaster intervention coaching and likewise can do extra superior coaching for specialties like aged, juveniles, homelessness and negotiating.

The push for extra psychological well being initiatives within the county was partially due to the demise of a 17-year-old John Albers in 2018.

Former Overland Park police officer Clayton Jenison responded to Albers’ house after a number of 911 calls stated Albers was making an attempt to kill himself. Jenison fired 13 photographs and struck Albers six instances whereas he was backing out of the driveway.

Johnson County District Lawyer Steve Howe cleared Jenison of any wrongdoing a month after the taking pictures, saying it was a justified use of pressure below Kansas legislation. After her son’s killing, Sheila Albers, who has been a robust advocate for improved psychological well being sources, shaped JOCO United. The nonprofit has fought for plenty of reforms, together with requiring extra officers bear disaster intervention coaching, and including a co-responder to each shift.

OPCAT was created in 2013 with one disaster intervention crew specialist and one Johnson County Psychological Well being Division co-responder. It grew to 2 CIT specialists and three co-responders in early 2021 earlier than being permitted to broaden once more final September.

Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Psychological Well being Middle, stated they’ve just lately totally staffed the six co-responder positions, but additionally had some bother recruiting.

Why there’s a scarcity and what to do

It’s notably tough to rent cops for the disaster motion crew.

That is as a result of a brand new recruit not solely has to undergo common coaching, but additionally disaster intervention and specialty coaching, stated Capt. Jeff Burvee, the commander of the unit.

It additionally takes a particular sort of one who desires to exit to psychological well being calls, that are normally lengthy and take a number of endurance.

He stated that’s the reason they’re additionally recruiting people who find themselves already officers and might be part of the crew extra rapidly.

The Overland Park Police Division as a complete is recruiting officers, and Burvee stated their struggles are simply part of a nationwide staffing scarcity amongst legislation enforcement.

Meg Ralph, a spokesperson for Overland Park, additionally stated police chief Frank Donchez requested metropolis council within the proposed 2023 funds for $ 142,000 for the police cadet program and a further $ 18,000 for an internship growth program to assist develop the division.

That funds is just not permitted but, and the Overland Park Metropolis Council will assessment, think about, have public hearings and finally vote on the funds on September 19.

Regardless of being so short-staffed, the crew is working seven days every week, and officers work 10 hour shifts, Burvee stated. To this point this yr, they’ve responded to simply below 700 calls and have achieved about 440 follow-ups.

A big a part of what they do is observe up with folks after their preliminary calls to offer extra sources and get them the assistance they should keep away from extra crises, Burvee stated.

Burvee stated he hopes to rent three to 4 extra officers by the tip of the yr.

Success since growth

Sgt. Stewart Introduced, who helped begin the crew, stated his officers on the crew are working round all day doing all the pieces they’ll.

They cannot reply to each name, so when a daily patrol officer responds to what they assume is a psychological well being disaster, that officer calls the disaster motion crew in. Introduced stated the aim is to take away patrol officers from these conditions and get their crew in at any time when doable.

The crew is making a distinction, even when it is not at full capability but, stated Introduced. Their resolution to place the CIT specialists in additional low-key uniforms and unmarked automobiles has helped make folks which are typically frequent callers extra comfy.

Sgt. Stewart Introduced, with the Overland Park Disaster Motion Crew The Overland Park Police Division

He stated some folks don’t want their neighbors or landlords to see police automobiles in entrance of their home for concern of getting evicted, and it has made callers extra welcoming of their assist. There have additionally been a number of cases the place folks have refused to speak to repeatedly uniformed patrol officers and as an alternative wished to speak to the extra casually dressed CIT specialists, Introduced stated.

A standout case that Introduced stated made different officers notice the significance of the crew included a woman who was struggling at college and went to the principal’s workplace.

As she was leaving the workplace, she started self-harming and OPCAT was referred to as. They introduced the fallen remedy canine ​​Haven, and the decision lasted over two hours, however Introduced stated their crew calmed the woman down.

“It was the primary time she agreed to hunt therapy, and he or she’d by no means achieved that earlier than,” Introduced stated.

He stated that’s the reason it is important to have a crew that’s not pressured to deal with a name rapidly and transfer onto the following like patrol officers.

Different psychological well being disaster groups

When creating Overland Park’s crew, Introduced stated final September that they checked out different departments throughout the state and nation, together with Olathe’s.

Olathe’s Superior Disaster Intervention Crew is an analogous dimension to Overland Park’s proper now, and has grown to 3 officers, three full time co-responders and one half time co-responder since 2021. Sgt. Logan Bonney stated they’ve just lately been permitted so as to add two extra officers to the crew, however that can take a while as a result of they’re ready till patrol staffing will increase barely.

As soon as the division hires extra officers, these can apply to be on their disaster intervention crew and, if permitted, undergo extra specialised coaching too.

Associated tales from Kansas Metropolis Star


Leave a Comment