The Watertown Police Department has created a new position within their agency. Thanks to a federal COPS grant, the department has been able to create a Mental Health Officer position. According to the department, the goal of the position is to reduce violent crime, reduce arrests of people suffering from mental illness or addictions, and increase the likelihood that individuals will receive ongoing mental health services and treatment.
The department says having a dedicated mental health officer will not only benefit those in need, it will also reduce the time police officers spend responding to mental health calls, freeing them up to focus on other law enforcement priorities.
From September 2019 to September 2020, the department responded to 368 mental health related calls. Of those, 167 were held in protective custody. There were eight completed suicides, 60 attempted suicides, and 182 suicide threats calls.
Officer Alexis Buysse, who has been with the agency since 2016, has been selected to serve as Watertown’s first mental health officer.