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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

MUPD behind on new behavioral health unit

Photo by Marquette Wire Stock Photo
In fall of last year, MUPD was in the process of hiring a mental health professional.

Marquette University Police Department’s behavioral health unit was supposed to be operational as of early January, but as of now, the unit is still in its “infancy stages.”

Assistant chief Jeff Kranz said MUPD discovered that three individuals accounted for hundreds of calls in a one-year period and they decided they needed another approach to address this issue. 

Kranz said the calls reported people who weren’t necessarily committing crimes, but because of their mental state, it could be perceived that they were acting criminally.

Kranz also said they were getting calls for trespassing, acting in a way that could cause concern and minor retail thefts and it was taking up a large amount of their officers’ patrol time.

“We ended up feeling kind of stuck with our only recourse was to arrest people, and that’s not what we wanted to do,” Kranz said. “We wanted to put together a unit that would be able to address these issues, not through the criminal justice system, but actually do some long-term assistance with people to get them the housing and the help that they need and actually try and come up with a solution to the problems.” 

MUPD Lieutenant James Hensley said that their only options are to ask the person to leave, write them a citation or arrest them.

“We want to help with some of these issues in solving the problem rather than just getting sent out to their actions, and in a lot of them, we found that their alcohol, drug and or mental health issues or a combination of all of those are the problem,” Hensley said.

Hensley attended a conference with departments from Green Bay and Appleton, Wisconsin who had units similar to the one Marquette is trying to implement. He said the units are looking to try to fix the root of the problems and not just the “symptoms.”

“These two departments have their versions of a behavioral health unit and it’s been very effective. Not only has it been addressing the folks that we’re constantly being called to, so that kind of fixes the problem, but then also it alleviates hours and hours where our officers aren’t stuck handling this when they can actually be out there trying to prevent crime,” Hensley said.

In fall of last year, MUPD was in the process of hiring a mental health professional. Recently, they’ve officially hired a crisis worker to work in the unit. The Marquette Wire made multiple requests to MUPD to interview the newly hired crisis worker, but were unable to get in contact with her prior to the publication date.

In Wisconsin, being a crisis worker requires a 16 hour training.

“She’s a former police officer, so she’s got a little bit of that knowledge of what we’re called to do and she’s been doing this very job in another jurisdiction, so she was a really nice fit for us,” Hensley said. 

Hensley said she’ll go out to wherever the call is from and try to help, but they don’t have the basics of her role fully established yet.

“What they are doing right now, though, is they are going out into the community and compiling a list of resources that are going to be available, not just to the unit, but at three in the morning when our officers are coming across some of these calls for service that they’ll be able to reach out to and get the assistance that the people need at that time of day,” Hensley said.

Hensley said they’re looking into ways to get these people back on their medication and finding them affordable housing.

“The challenge right now is: suppose that an officer at one in the morning is getting sent to somebody sleeping in our parking structure, and they’re addressing that single moment in time which may be taking them to a shelter or dropping them off at a relative’s house, but two days later they’re getting sent back out to that same person,” Kranz said.

The behavioral health unit is instead going to follow up with that individual to ensure they find a stable situation.

“It’s part of the personnel that Marquette talks about all the time, it’s helping the entire person and that’s kind of the goal of this unit,” Kranz said.

This story was written by Sophia Tiedge. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Sophia Tiedge
Sophia Tiedge, Executive News Editor
Sophia is a sophomore from Arlington Heights, IL studying journalism. This year she will serving as the Executive News Editor after spending last year as a news reporter. In her free time, Sophia enjoys reading, working out and going to new places with her friends. This year Sophia is looking forward to collaborating with others and learning more about what happens on campus.

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