Bloomington police have launched an anonymous tip line for people to report a mental health crisis or violent extremist behavior, providing an avenue to help someone get the resources they need.
Deputy Chief Mike Hartley said officers often hear from family members, friends or co-workers who wish they would have reported someone they were concerned about.
“If this gets one person a year the help they need or prevents one act of violence, then it’s more than worth it,” Hartley said, adding, “We are not by any means lumping people who are suffering from mental illness in with violent extremists.”
Tips reported on what’s being called the Crisis or Violent Extremist Reporting line will be evaluated and vetted to determine the appropriate response. The line isn’t intended for in-progress incidents or calls that should go to 911, Hartley said.
The tip line comes a few months after Bloomington, along with five other west metro cities, added a social worker to its police department staff.
Bloomington and Brooklyn Park police each have their own social worker; Plymouth and Minnetonka police share a social worker, as do Hopkins and St. Louis Park.
The social worker for the Bloomington police receives referrals from officers who respond to a call for someone they suspect may benefit from social services. The position is jointly funded by the city and Hennepin County.
Any tip line information regarding mental health concerns is forwarded to the social worker, who can access records to see what services the individual is already receiving and then check to evaluate what other resources they might require.
“We want people to remain in their communities and connect with services,” said Cynthia Arkema-O’Harra, a Hennepin County program manager for criminal justice behavioral health. “The goal is to help people improve their lives and keep them from reaching crisis.”
Having someone dedicated to following up with a person in need of social services can prevent repeat calls for issues that don’t require police intervention, Hartley said.
“We’ve seen the real benefits of having someone right there who can both answer our questions and then go address issues that our officers may not be trained or equipped for,” Hartley said. “It’s been working really well.”
Representatives from suburban police departments and social service agencies this week started meeting for regular roundtable discussions about how they can work together to connect people with services and resources.
“What we’ve found out is that there’s nobody in any of these agencies who wants people to have police involvement for an issue that is just about livability,” Arkema-O’Harra said.
“We want to help officers be free to do the kind of work they need to do.”