Franklin Police hope to add Crisis Intervention Officer, body cameras

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FRANKLIN, Ind. — Franklin’s Police Chief and Mayor hope to add body-worn and in-car cameras, as well as a new Crisis Intervention Officer to the city’s police department.

The plans are part of a proposed $300,000 budget increase for the Franklin Police Department and part of the proposed $24.9 million city budget going before the City Council Monday night.

Chief Kirby Cochran and Mayor Steve Barnett say the plans for the police department have been in the works for the last couple years, and they are very relevant to current conversations about how police departments around the nation interact with the public.

“To give them more tools to work with and be better servants to our community,” Mayor Barnett said.

The Crisis Intervention Officer would represent a new position within the police department. Chief Cochran said the officer would be a licensed clinical social worker who can help with situations involving individuals who are dealing with mental or emotional health issues.

“Make sure that we’re getting them the help they need and we’re not just trying to get rid of the call and move on to the next,” Cochran said.

In an extreme situation, the specialist could respond with other officers to a volatile scenario, like a SWAT standoff, and help deescalate the situation before it results in violence. As a trained crisis negotiator, Cochran said a crisis intervention specialist could be invaluable while working alongside other officers at a tense scene.

“As a police officer, I’m just trying to deal with what is going on right now, not what do we do with this afterwards,” Cochran said.  “How do we keep this from becoming a bigger problem?”

Mayor Barnett pointed to a recent incident where a distraught mother walked into Franklin City Hall after losing custody of her child.  Barnett said it took police officers two hours to calm the woman down, make sure she didn’t hurt herself or anyone else and connect her to the help she needed.

“She didn’t deserve to go to jail for being here that day, and she didn’t go to jail,” Barnett said.  “We got her the right help, but this person would be the person that’s trained to know where to get her the right help and lead her in the right direction.”

The Crisis Intervention Officer would also provide community outreach training on mental health issues and work with officers within the police department to help them take care of their own mental health.

“Someone that is available to help counsel and debrief with officers after traumatic incidents, crashes, deaths, suicides,” Cochran said.

In searching for the right candidate, Cochran said he would like to find a licensed clinical social worker with a history of working with law enforcement.

Perhaps the most common talk of the officer would be to follow up with individuals after immediate situations are resolved to make sure they are connected to the services and resources they need.

“This person would have that mental health background, that licensure, that education and knowledge that would be able to go that next step,” Cochran said.

The Franklin Police Department also plans to add a therapy dog to its ranks.

The Police Department and other department budgets will go before the Franklin City Council Monday at 6:00 p.m. If all proposals are approved, Cochran said the Crisis Intervention Officer could start working as early as January.

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