In-Depth: Mental Health Crisis Calls Handled Differently in South, North Minneapolis

November 16, 2018 09:53 AM

Minneapolis City Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham is calling for a city-wide expansion of a mental health program that currently only exists in south Minneapolis.

Friday's officer-involved shooting of 36-year-old Travis Jordan happened in Ward 4, which Cunningham represents.  Two officers from the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct responded to a call from someone who reported Jordan was suicidal due to depression and anxiety.

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The Fourth Precinct, however, isn't a part of the Minneapolis Police Department's co-responder program.  The program involves mental health professionals who respond directly to mental health calls alongside officers.

Right now, only the Third and Fifth Precincts that serve south Minneapolis take part in the program.

Based on statistics from the Minneapolis Police Department, the program seems to be working

Through the first ten months of 2018, mental health specialists have gone out with Minneapolis police officers on 985 calls.


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According to the department, officers had to use force on only two of those calls.

Mayor Jacob Frey said the program has also resulted in 149 people classified as emotionally disturbed being allowed to remain in their homes instead of being taken to jail, a major goal of the program.

In his 2019 budget, Frey proposed expanding the program to parts of the First Precinct, which serves Downtown Minneapolis.

However, in the wake of Friday's officer-involved shooting in his district, Cunningham is calling for MPD's co-responder program to be expanded city-wide.


 


Cunningham says he's been told there weren't enough mental health-related calls to justify expansion to North Minneapolis, but he's not buying that rationale.

"On the north side, folks of color don't feel comfortable calling the police when there is a mental health crisis," said Cunningham.  "I think this latest incident actually is an example of why folks don't feel safe calling."

Cunningham has requested a special meeting of the Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee later this month to discuss expanding the co-responder program.

An Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson said the department is in favor of expanding the program city-wide as well.

"MPD will continue to train and educate our officers on public safety tools such as de-escalation and crisis intervention training and to be the best stewards of the public trust," a statement said.  "However, we must do more as a city to invest in mental health services and clinics whose resources and services are available day and night to those who need them.  Increasing public safety and reducing community harm goes beyond just policing rather it requires true and authentic collaboration between police and community."  

An email to Mayor Frey's office seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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Tim Vetscher

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