After videos surfaced of police confronting Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia and Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, both of whom were experiencing a mental health crisis according to family members, the national spotlight was turned up on how cops interact with the mentally ill and marginalized populations such as the homeless and substance abusers. Numerous agencies announced they are exploring options on how to rewrite response protocols to help officers de-escalate tensions and assist individuals.
In Maine, the Waldo and Knox County Sheriff’s Office set out to create this protocol a year ago when it agreed to establish the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, a collaboration with the Restorative Justice Project Maine and Health Equity Alliance community organization.
“We’ve developed in this country too heavy a reliance on incarceration to deal with social problems,” Waldo County Chief Deputy Jason Trundy explained to WABI TV. “LEAD is another tool for law enforcement officers when they encounter different scenarios in our community. The LEAD program is designed to provide an officer with another option.”
“It’s often those unmet basic needs that are driving that problematic behavior.”
“The concept behind LEAD that is taking root nationally is that officers have, historically, only had limited resources when they’re responding to a call, and a lot of the calls they’re responding to aren’t always criminal in nature,” added Sarah Mattox, the Restorative Justice Project community resolution program manager.
Deputies now can engage various community resources more directly in an effort to aid individuals in need of housing, treatment and other social safety nets.
“It’s often those unmet basic needs that are driving that problematic behavior that leads to interaction with law enforcement,” said Ashley Brown, regional manager of the Downeast and Midcoast region Health Equity Alliance.