I-TEAM: How effective will the Richmond County crisis team be?

Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 6:23 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Fewer people in jail, and fewer 911 calls going wrong - that’s the goal of a new team at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

Even long before this summer’s moments, the movement had already begun.

The sheriff’s office confirmed to our I-Team back in August, that the new Crisis Intervention Team was in direct response to longstanding reform calls from previous years. The team is there to respond to mental health calls and get people the help they need.

“It definitely shows that they’re listening to what the citizens want,” Jamie Tutson of Bringing Lives and Communities Together.

Starting on Nov. 1, there will be one counselor and one crisis officer to respond to mental health calls.

Our I-Team went digging and found just how effective these programs are across the country.

The numbers in the last six months alone prove the need. Deputies responded more than 1,300 times to mental disorder or suicide-related incidents, something the sheriff’s office says police are not typically trained to handle.

That where crisis teams come in.

“Ideally having this type of resource in place is not only going to save lives but help earn the trust of the community,” Tutson said.

Our I-Team found national studies reveal, so far these types of teams have not had a large success in reducing how often police use force. But we did find, the program reduced the number of arrests.

Sheriff Richard Roundtree says the goal of the team would ultimately be diversion or sending people to treatment instead of jail.

Local activist groups like BLACC say these staggering monthly totals across Augusta, suggest the sheriff’s office will likely need more than the two-person crisis team.

“Have several officers trained and kind of just placed around different areas of the city,” Tutson said.

But Tutson knows the progress must start somewhere…

“It’s a good—a great first step,” Tutson said. “A lot of people do say that they don’t see them often unless they’re in trouble or unless they’re being pulled over and we want to change that. We don’t want that to be the only narrative.”

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