OUR VIEW: Giving police more assistance during family crisis calls a good idea

Published 10:30 am Friday, July 23, 2021

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When there’s an emergency or something is out of control, we’re all taught at an early age to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1.

But those situations aren’t always criminal or related to a car accident. Our local law enforcement also responds to family crisis calls, doing their best to de-escalate a situation that can quickly get out of control.

Just like every other police officer in the country, our officers locally are asked to do a lot more than just investigate crimes or protect our streets.

LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar summed it up perfectly, as he typically does.

“We’re often trying to deal with issues that aren’t really police matters but are family matters that require professional intervention,” Dekmar said. “We’re kind of the default button because no one knows who else to call [because] the problem is that there is no service set up to respond to these kinds of situations.”

Judge Michael Key, who is always working on ways for our community to better respond to trauma situations or family issues, has helped organize leaders to create an Early Response Program. Essentially, specialists would assist LPD with family-related crisis in our community.

We think it’s a tremendous idea. Our police officers are trained for these types of situations, but we think additional assistance — especially from someone with a mental health type focus — can only be a beneficial thing. It would also take some work off of the LPD’s plate, as the ERP (early response program) would handle some of the work that often requires a great deal of time from police officers.

“I’ve known for some time that there should be a way for us to have a behavioral and mental health approach to some situations rather than a pure law enforcement approach,” Key said.

“From my personal experience, as we’ve done trauma training with police officers, I think they do a pretty good job, but they’re by no means therapists, and they can only deal with what they can deal with.”

Our police officers do a lot, and that might be the understatement of the year. This idea of giving them a few more resources — especially in the midst of a complicated family matter — can only be beneficial, might help further diffuse the situation and can probably become a model for other cities to emulate.