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NJ Study: Less Violence When Cops Pair With Mental Health Experts

A Brookings Institution analysis of a New Jersey initiative that pairs police with mental health experts found that nearly every call resulted in no arrest or use of force, with few racial disparities, News From The States reports. The data come from a small sample size, a researcher stressed. Criminal justice reformers caution that it’s too early to declare the 18-month-old initiative a success. The findings come as New Jersey grapples with the aftermath of a deadly police shooting in Paterson on March 3, when police killed local activist Najee Seabrooks, whose loved ones say was in the middle of a mental health crisis when police shot him. After Seabrooks’ killing, Attorney General Matthew Platkin took over the city’s police department. Platkin said pairing cops with mental health experts in parts of the state has been crucial to restoring trust that’s been broken between communities and law enforcement.

“The key is listening to the community and forming that partnership so that they’re not learning about a program when a moment of crisis emerges — that there’s buy-in on all sides: law enforcement, the health care responders, community, stakeholders, and ultimately my office,” he said. New Jersey’s initiative — Arrive Together, which stands for Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence and Escalation — partners a plainclothes police officer with a mental health counselor or screener from a community organization in an unmarked car in responding to certain mental or behavioral health calls. It launched in Camden County in late 2021 and expanded to Elizabeth and Linden. It’s expanding to another 10 counties soon. Brookings, where Platkin once worked, analyzed 342 calls between December 2021 and January 2023 and had access to police reports and other data. Arrive Together teams responded to most incidents during the day, and two out of three callers were male. The average age of callers was 41 years old, and the majority of calls were from 911. Most callers were Black and Hispanic, at 39% and 35% of calls, respectively, and 26% were white callers. The study found that while racial disparities are prevalent in police uses of force, the data from the program does “not demonstrate any significant differences” between race, gender, and age.


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