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SBPD adds new specialty assignment Crisis Intervention Co-Response Officer

Santa Barbara Police Department SBPD generic

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Santa Barbara’s Police Department created a new specialty assignment their officers can apply for. The assignment is a crisis intervention co-response officer. The officer will team up with a member of the Santa Barbara County Behavior Wellness Department to work as a mediator during mental health calls.

SBPD Captain Marylinda Arroyo said to fill the assignment the department is not spending any additional money nor needed to hire any additional person. And only trained Santa Barbara police officers can apply for this assignment.

During Tuesday’s Santa Barbara Finance Committee, SBPD Chief Lori Luhnow introduced the new assignment. However, during the public comment, callers said they were unhappy only SBPD officers were able to apply for the new assignment.

Captain Arroyo clarified Thursday saying they hire applications to be police officers. The officers then apply for their position in the department after being hiring. Those positions include applying for internal assignments. And those assignments vary from patrol to detective to now crisis intervention co-response officer. And they followed their normal procedure to fill this new specialty assignment as they do all others inside the department. Similar to a soccer team selecting their own players to be part of the coin-toss representatives to start a game.

Lieutenant Kenny Kushner will be overseeing the new assignment. He said there were eight officers that applied for the new assignment. The officer they select will either go through or will have gone through 40 hours of crisis intervention training through the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. 

A mental health professional from the Santa Barbara County Department of Behavior Health will team up with the officer. Jeff Shannon is the crisis services manager at the Department of Behavioral Health. He said, “This program is really to redirect people with mental health challenges away from the criminal justice system where they’re not served well back to the mental health system where they can get the care treatment and support they need to be successful.”

This is not a totally new type of officer in Santa Barbara County. The sheriff’s office has a similar officer.  “It’s shown success, a program very similar, has shown success at the Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Department,” said Lt. Kushner. “They started a similar program within the last several years and they’ve demonstrated success with that program. The county reached out to the police department and expressed an interest to partner with a co-response team. And it’s something we’re excited to start immediately.”

SBPD is adding this new assignment in wake of Black Lives Matter rallies and protests to call for reform in policing. And Lt. Kushner said the assignment follows the community’s need. “I think we’re starting it now because there’s a great need for it.”

Lt. Kushner said there will be one officer for the specialty assignment. And if it’s successfully and they need more officers, more officers can be assigned in the future.

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Scott Sheahen

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