Interview: Wellesley Police Department updates us on the “One Mind” campaign

About a year ago the Wellesley Police Department embarked on the One Mind Campaign, a program designed to ensure successful interactions between police officers and citizens affected by mental illness. The One Mind Campaign was spearheaded by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the organization that former Wellesley police chief Terrence Cunningham now works for.

Under the One Mind program, the Wellesley Police Department, now led by Chief Pilecki, pledged to do the following: partner with one or more community mental health organizations; develop/implement a policy for police response to persons affected by mental illness; train and certify all Wellesley Police Department officers in mental health first aid; and Provide Crisis Intervention Team training to a minimum of 20% of sworn officers.

One of Wellesley PD’s finest, Sgt. Brian Spencer, updated me about the department’s adoption of the “One Mind” campaign. The idea is to to ensure successful interactions between police officers and citizens affected by mental illness.

We checked in with Sgt. Brian Spencer of the WPD to ask about the benchmarks and to find out in general how the One Mind program is working in practice on uniting the Wellesley community, public safety organizations, and mental health organizations so that the three become “of one mind.”

The Swellesley Report: How did Wellesley become involved in the One Mind Campaign?

Sgt. Spencer: It came down from the International Chiefs of police because they saw there were a lot of mental health issues in interactions with the police and the public. To be in the program, we pledged we’d have a policy to have a working relationship with a mental health facility. Also, now 100% of our officers are trained for mental health first aid and 20% are trained for Crisis Intervention.We deal with people who have obvious mental health issues who may or may not live in town, and we use our training to help them.

The Swellesley Report: One of the benchmarks of the program was to unite the community with mental health organizations. Has that happened?

Sgt. Spencer: We already had a relationship with Riverside Community Care (in Dedham) before we started the program, so that benchmark was already met. Riverside is the partner facility we deal with for crisis situations. We sometimes refer people to them. Human Relations Services (HRS) behind the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church is also a resource we partner with. That’s what we try to do — direct people to resources.

We can make them go to the hospital but we don’t like to do that. In a situation that looks like it’s leading there, that’s where a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) comes in. We have 11 officers trained in crisis intervention. About 28% of the department has been trained. A higher percentage of that are actually those on the street because there are department members such as detectives who are trained but not necessarily on the street.

We are trying to make sure we have one Crisis Intervention trained person on each shift. On top of that, we’re putting together a follow-up program. The follow-up is just as important.

The Swellesley Report: How does the Crisis Intervention Team work?

Sgt. Spencer: That’s something Chief Polenki is really interested in. The way it works is you have agencies in town like the Council on Aging,  the Health Department, Fire Department, plus other outside agencies that can help with that person. Right now, you might have four different agencies working with a person who needs services, and no one knows it. With the Crisis Intervention Team, the agencies work together and are communicating. It’s an addition to the One Mind campaign, and it will roll out in a greater way in Spring 2018. Different departments will be involved like the DCF (the Department of Children and Families), the courts, juvie, probation officers, housing agencies, Springwell elder agency (and others).

The Swellesley Report: Why the emphasis on people with mental health issues?

Sgt. Spencer: Because there’s a stigma around people with mental health issues. A “they just need to solve it” attitude. It’s not that simple. And it will help keep our officers safer. 100% of the officers have been trained in deescalation. Things can be pretty calm and suddenly go crazy. If the officers are trained in deescalation, the situation on a call could be improved.

The Swellesley Report: Thanks for your time, Sgt. Spencer.

Sgt. Spencer: You’re welcome.