Reforms to policing continue to gather momentum in the Garden State.
The Attorney General’s Office is working to expand a pilot program that would provide law enforcement officer (LEO) with mental health experts when responding to calls regarding behavioral health issues.
Meanwhile, new legislation addressing mental health emergency responses and establishing a registry of residents with special needs who may require additional assistance were moved ahead by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
The Police Departments in Elizabeth and Linden will be the next police forces to adopt the ARRIVE (Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence and Escalation) Together program, according to Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin.
The ARRIVE Together program was designed to pair LEOs with certified mental health screeners when responding to behavioral health crises. The program was piloted via the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) and was operated from its Cumberland County stations in Bridgeton and Port Norris.
Pairing Cops, Mental Health Professionals
“By piloting this program in two additional jurisdictions, we are broadening our goal of connecting those in crisis with the proper mental health resources they need, which in turn helps officers, counselors, and the communities we all collectively serve,” said Platkin.
Under the expanded program, a screener from Trinitas Medical center will travel with plainclothes officers from the police departments to respond to 9-1-1 calls for service relating to mental or behavioral health crises. ARRIVE Together shifts will be held two times per week on alternating days between each department, and the teams will follow up with previous individuals served when not responding to reactive calls.
“Connecting individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis with mental health professionals will help to de-escalate these situations in a safe and healthy way. This program is yet another tool for our law enforcement officers to utilize and better assist the communities they serve,” said Gov. Phil Murphy of the program.
Four Policing Bills Forward
The expansion of the programs comes after the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee advanced four police reform bills May 19, including one addressing mental health emergency responses. S-722, sponsored by State Sens. Richard Codey (D-27) and Troy Singleton (D-7), would establish a three-year Crisis Response Support Pilot Program to enable collaboration between LEOs and mental health professionals.
“Collaboration between police officers and mental health professionals is mutually beneficial for everyone involved – law enforcement, communities and residents alike,” said Singleton. “By establishing this pilot program, it is our hope that there will be fewer instances of unnecessary force when residents are suffering from a mental health crisis.”
A second bill, S-769, would require the Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services under the Office of Information Technology to create a registry of residents with special needs who may require additional assistance provided to them during an emergency.
Establishing a Registry
“Through establishing this registry, our state’s first responders will be better equipped to handle these situations, ensuring that individuals with special needs are not only safe but comfortable while receiving treatment,” said State Sen. Nellie Pou (D-35).
A third bill (S-818), sponsored by Singleton, would appropriate $1.25 million to fund a Minorities in Police grant program to recruit qualified minority LEO candidates.
Finally, S-2072, sponsored by State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15), would require the Police Training Commission in the Division of Criminal Justice in the Department of Law and Public Safety to include cultural diversity and implicit bias training in the basic training courses for police officers.