Rather than chalk it up to the usual and move on, Sgt. Matthews did the unusual. He pulled together a team of social workers and Office of Animal Services and decided to address this situation as a mental health issue and not law enforcement. “I realized, I was ill equipped to handle this situation on my own and that what we needed was a multi-faceted team to address this situation.” This became the blueprint for subsequent efforts. And in time, his efforts got noticed…by his leadership who wondered about his unusual methods. “I explained to them that traditional law enforcement tactics were unnecessary. That there was an increasing number of cases where you needed a multi-faceted team that included a social worker to come and resolve the situation. It took a little convincing, but in time they saw the merit of my efforts.”
Since that first effort in May of 2022, Sgt. Matthews has formed the Crisis Intervention Team. He along with other public servants from other disciplines jointly go to incidences to de-escalate situations and then figure out the right path forward. “Like any team, we all have different roles based on our areas of expertise. So, we handle each situation a little differently every time. Sensible, for sure, but there isn’t really a precedent with what we are doing. “ Sgt. Matthews sees the solution also including outpatient clinics as well as behavioral health centers. “I am glad to see that there is funding now available for the Restoration Center. That will make a difference in the community.”
Along with these initiatives, Sgt. Matthews is helping pull together other teams that include his fellow officers. “They see the need and are eager to find a way to bring it to bear on the situations they find themselves in.” In addition to Montgomery County, his methods has gotten the attention of others in law enforcement and he is finding himself in a consulting capacity. This includes efforts in Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties. “Who knew that a random call could lead to so much change.”
As we celebrate National Mental Health Month, let’s recognize the need and support those who find ways to think differently.
Sgt. Matthews told more of this story at our 30th Anniversary Storytelling Show, streaming on demand here. (Catch him at the 10:00 mark.)