Brooklyn Park Police Unveil State’s First Mental Health Alternative Response Team
Brooklyn Park police say the city is in the pilot phase of rolling out a first-of-its-kind alternative response team for mental health calls. City leaders say it could be a model for the rest of the state.
“This is a pilot to figure out how to do it right,” said Brooklyn Park Police Chief Bruley.
The city of Brooklyn Park is partnering with Hennepin County social workers and North Memorial Health paramedics to provide response for mental health calls. Social worker Nils Dybvig and paramedic Maria Stevenson are on the Brooklyn Park team.
“Some of the calls are something you don’t need an armed police response for,” said Dybvig. “I don’t have pressure to go on to the next call because I don’t have a whole bunch of other calls involving crimes that police officers are having to respond to.”
Dybvig acknowledged that such a response team was something police were skeptical of at first, but he says that has changed. He also says police and the response team are also learning to work more effectively with each other.
Equipped with police radios, the response team will either respond with or in lieu of a police officer. The team will initially work Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. out of the main Brooklyn Park police station. Chief Bruley hopes to expands those hours.
Brooklyn Park Alternative Response Team ‘Incredibly Important’
Police also emphasize that this team will only respond to calls that don’t involve weapons or potentially violent situations, but rather calls that could include substance use, indecent exposure or self-harm. Hennepin County 911 dispatch also did test runs to evaluate whether calls would be okay for the alternative response team.
“What we’re finding is now the majority of calls are the officer gets there and recognizes right away that this is not a crime issue, this is a mental health issue, and then calls directly the alternative response,” said Bruley.
According to statistics provided by the Brooklyn Park Police Department, police had 1,270 mental-health related calls last year. Police say those calls continue to go up every year.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Lunde, a former Brooklyn Park mayor, said the city was chosen for the two-year pilot due due its receptive approach to trying new ideas.
“We have a good partnership. We have a good track record. They have enough call volume for us to get an accurate measurement of it. And so it’s not by accident we’re here,” said Lunde.
Brooklyn Park Mayor Hollies Winston, who won election last fall, says the new response team is something that he fully supports.
“This is incredibly important because it allows the resources to go where they need, but it also allows the police to address some of the more pressing or even more difficult issues that they’re dealing with,” said Winston.
Bruley says he’s already been contacted by other cities about the partnership. He anticipates other cities will try to follow suit.
“I know my peers like Brooklyn Center, Edina and others have reached out to me,” said Bruley. “I anticipate that is going to grow rather quickly.”
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