Shoreline Mayor Will Hall: Local program helps police respond to people in crisis

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Will Hall, Mayor
City of Shoreline
By Shoreline Mayor Will Hall

One of the pleasures of serving Shoreline is seeing important and innovative ideas take root in our community. While Federal and State programs often come with huge price tags, sometimes we can develop new, lower cost approaches in the laboratory of local government.

Many Shoreline residents have seen or experienced behavioral health challenges. I regularly hear from individuals and families whose lives are impacted when a mental health or substance abuse crisis affects someone they know.

Far too often, a person in crisis can end up in jail or an emergency room when what they really need are support services. That’s why I have been so heartened to see the success of a Shoreline experiment that brings together mental health professionals with our police officers.

In 2016, the City of Shoreline was selected to develop a pilot program called RADAR: Response, Awareness, De-escalation And Referral. RADAR uses a team approach to help individuals who may be struggling with behavioral health issues and who may be the subject of multiple 911 calls. By sharing information and adding mental health professionals to the team, law enforcement in Shoreline and our partner jurisdictions can more effectively address those situations as they arise. It can significantly reduce misunderstandings that could lead to arrest or the use of force.

RADAR gives police officers advance information on high-risk individuals suffering from mental illness. That helps police de-escalate the issue and avoid conflict. Police work with mental health professionals to follow up and do outreach. In schools, the team can connect students and families to services, and integrate kids back into school in cases where they’ve been affected by a person in crisis.

In a few short years, RADAR has developed a proven track record of partnership between law enforcement and mental health services. Our success led to significant King County funding to expand the program, thanks to King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski. RADAR has grown into a program that serves Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell and Kirkland.

RADAR has been shown to reduce repeat calls for service, making our police officers more available to respond to other public safety needs. And better collaboration with other cities has improved our working relationships with neighboring jurisdictions.

Last month, I was honored to welcome some of the people who created RADAR and made it successful at a symposium. They were sharing lessons learned with other police and mental health professionals so that this new approach can be used in other communities. It was an honor to see how people working together locally are making a difference in creating a safer, healthier community for all.


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