George Floyd police reform legacy emerges as APD demilitarizes, adds social worker response

Mad River Union

ARCATA – The  May 25, 2020 killing of George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers continues to reshape community policing, with APD implementing a range of new reforms.  

In response to the June 17, 2020 incident, the City Council directed the Arcata Police Department to initiate several reforms. Many, including banning the carotid control hold, expanding the use and supervisory review of body worn cameras and developing additional training on de-escalation and procedural justice, have since been implemented. 

Last week, Police Chief Brian Ahearn reported the return of 14 “long guns” – military rifles – back to the U.S. military. The return had been delayed due to COVID-19-related program changes. The long guns were never utilized during APD operations or in training. 

APD Chief Brian Ahearn.

Meanwhile, the Public Safety Committee continues to review of reform strategies such as Campaign Zero, 8 Can’t Wait and 8 To Abolish as well as the analysis of social service positions and civilian oversight models to incorporate into APD with much of this work being directed by two subcommittees within the PSC.

In 2018, APD began working in tandem with the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services MIST (Mobile Intervention and Services Team) to provide services to those experiencing homelessness and mental health crises. 

The City of Arcata recently identified CARES Act/CDBG-Coronavirus Response monies that could be used to continue MIST-related services through DHHS. After authorization by the City Council on July 15, 2020, a plan was recently finalized that includes:

• MIST Personnel will be on site at APD Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.;

• One member of DHHS, either a MIST clinician supervisor, Behavioral Health case manager or behavioral health clinician will be on-duty during these operational hours;

• Members of the DHHS/MIST team will accompany APD Officers on behavioral health related calls for service;

• When not responding to calls DHHS/MIST personnel will focus on developing resource strategies for those who have regular contact with APD personnel and are in need of services and assistance.

DHHS/MIST personnel will have office space at APD and will have access to their County computer system to manage their administrative work. An MOU has been finalized and the clinicians are expected to be on-board at APD within a few weeks. Even though they will work from the APD Station DHHS/MIST personnel will remain under all rules, regulations and operating procedures for their work as employees of Humboldt County.

The goal of this program is to prevent the exposure and spread of the COVID-19 virus within the homeless population through a reduction of the number of people experiencing homelessness in Arcata through a co-response to mental health related calls with those who are unhoused. The focus of these outreach efforts will be to assist individuals with accessing emergency shelter options in the short-term and permanent housing in the long-term. MIST staff will also assist individuals with accessing behavioral health services and other community resources to support their stabilization in the community. These services and resources include the following:

• Comprehensive Community Treatment: The target population of this service are adults with severe and persistent mental illness. Prioritization goes to those with frequent mental health related hospitalizations.

•  Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment: Individuals referred to SUD treatment may be provided with outpatient treatment such as detox and residential recovery treatment through Waterfront Recovery Services, Humboldt Recovery Center and Crossroads.

•  Vocational Training: Provides individuals with the support they need to be successful in preparing for work and obtaining employment. The programs include the Employment Resource Center, Helping Humboldt Day-Worker Program and the Humboldt Second Chance Program.

• Intensive Case Management: MIST utilizes Clinicians, Case Managers and Peer Coaches to provide outreach and clinical services with the goal of directing the appropriate resources to specific individuals.

• Peer Support: MIST peer coaches provide initial outreach and engagement to connect individuals to ongoing peer support at the Hope Center.

• Crisis Services: Assisting the public with Semper Virens (SV) same day services, 24/7 Crisis Line, Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) and SV psychiatric health facility access.

The MIST program will be managed by APD’s Patrol Operations Commander, Lieutenant Bart Silvers, and the day to day supervision will be provided by Administrative Sergeant Brian Hoffman. A response protocol has been developed; a protocol that is expected to be modified in the months ahead as new strategies are identified as to how best to provide a dual response by both APD and DHHS/MIST personnel.

Providing a safe space in which client needs can be triaged and a plan developed to service those needs will be paramount. The current level of funding is expected to provide one year of services under this agreement while additional funding streams are identified to sustain this or a similar type of program.





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