Former mental health worker Benjamin Linsky is part of the Boston Police Department's street outreach unit, a specialized team that links people struggling with substance use disorder and mental illness to social services. With years of crisis intervention training, Linsky, 40, represents "the cop of the future" and a "model for real police reform" as someone trained to recognize emotionally distressed behavior and defuse emotional situations without escalating them or relying on incarceration in lieu of treatment and housing, Boston City Councilor Frank Baker told the Boston Globe.
Linsky put his mental health counselor degree to work as the first clinician at the Boston Emergency Services team to partner with police officers responding to mental health emergencies. As the program matured and spread citywide, Linsky realized he wanted to join the ranks of the police and put his experiences to better use. After four years of work as "just a cop," Linsky transferred to street outreach. His work now is focused on sex trafficking, guiding women to recovery centers while intercepting networks of pimps and traffickers. Linsky's role allows him to get to know people on the streets in a way that helps him intervene in appropriate ways during emergencies. “You get to know them a little bit personally, you get to know some of their family that’s looking for them, but people don’t burn one bridge to end up out there. You burn all your bridges,” he said. “This is the last stop on the train; it doesn’t get worse than this. People either get better from here or they die.”