The MVDC Criminal Justice Committee is comprised of community entities and agencies that are working to address institutional, mental health and/or criminal justice concerns. Collaborating partners include: all six Island Police Chiefs, Island Healthcare, MV Community Services, MV Hospital and a representative of MV Black Lives Matter. The committee has identified several areas of interest and concern:

There are many challenging, and in some cases even dangerous police/mental health calls annually on Martha’s Vineyard, and the committee has been grappling with this issue over the past several years, with others in the community. Reportedly we learned that there were at least 1400 cases last year that could benefit from targeted programming. Efforts are finally coming to fruition, and a model is being established as members of the committee review other options as well:

1) A co- response model training is being planned by MV Community Services (MVCS) for clinicians to prepare them and police to respond to mental health emergency cases. Chief Jonathan Searle of Oak Bluffs is planning a training for his department as well. Chief Jonathan Searle of the Oak Bluffs Police Department will be administering funding from the Department of Mental Health in order to provide training and to develop a co response model. MVCS will also provide training resources for both police officers and clinicians. Sarah Abbot, a nationally know expert in the field, is scheduled to implement training. MVCS and the Oak Bluffs Police Department reportedly have plans to implement a co- response model after clinicians and police are prepared to move forward. The newly hired program coordinator at MVCS, Jared Andrews, has served as an Oak Bluffs police officer, and he has extensive experience in working with social service/criminal justice models that are sensitive to the needs of those challenged with substance use and mental health challenges. He is a strong communicator and has already connected to key collaborators to get things moving. The objective is to build a community co- response model with clinicians and police officers who are specifically trained to respond to these difficult cases, and to collaborate with other agencies like the MV Hospital and Island Health Care, to assure a continuum of services in the community.

2) Island Healthcare and MVBLM have members on this committee and they are currently discussing options for an additional community model that would work as a separate entity. While the goals are similar, the methods are much more dependent on the involvement of citizens and mental health mentors, and there is no police involvement. The Kahootz model has been very successful in many cities across the country, and the essence of this model is being considered as a possible option for the Island.

There are many challenges, but if a Kahootz model or the likes becomes viable for the Island, we may help to write grants to fund it. With collaborating partners, funding is much more feasible. At this point there is much more research to be done to determine possible options. MVDC would be open to assisting in grant efforts for any future needs related of both the co- response model, and the Kahootz model, if it makes sense.

3) Our MVDC Criminal Justice Committee (CJC), has established a Partnership Initiative with all of the six Police Chiefs on the Island, in order to promote communication and trust and a mechanism to resolve concerns effectively. Chief Bruce McNamee of Edgartown asked that I continue to partner with him, since we have been working together for five years, but all of the remaining five towns have MVDC POC partners who have volunteered to work with their chiefs. The idea is to have an informal mechanism of communication to process issues of concern. I trust that relationships will develop over time between the Chiefs and our MVDC representatives.We had an initial dinner meeting with five of the six police chiefs (Chief Belain of Aquinnah has been one of our most active committee chiefs, but he was unable to make it because of a conference off Island.) We have had one case in which a police chief in a specific town constructively responded to an issue of concern. I spoke to him, and he was satisfied with the outcome.

The committee agreed to a protocol for reporting at our last committee meeting, and it is currently being prepared for review. We believe that this grass roots problem solving process with a trusted team is an effective way to get things done quickly, since many POC and immigrants will not report problems for fear of retribution. In the one recent case of a POC reporting an issue he experienced, he wanted confidentiality. This is often the case because people fear of retribution and possibility deportation. They also do not want notoriety and fear being victimized.

4) We were asked to endorse the use of body cameras for Island police by Chief McNamee and the MVDC board of trustees wrote a letter of support. The general advantages sited were that both alleged defendants and police would be protected, depending on the circumstances. The discussion that ensued helped us all to understand the complex challenges related to the implementation of cameras. They are as follows:

  • Job descriptions would require updating with union input
  • There would likely be a need to pay officers more
  • Lack of privacy if the demand is that they remain on at all times
  • Every town would have separate initiatives and requirements
  • Storage will cost thousands of dollars every year
  • The towns would need to fund each program separately
  • Every town would need to vote to fund the program
  • Even if grants pay for the cameras there would need to be ongoing funding
  • If people want them are they willing to pay for them?

5) Brian Morris of Island Health Care reported the formation of a recovery court that is focusing on getting non violent people with substance use disorders the help they need. This model works best when all providers are connected to the court. Substance use is common with people who are mentally ill; often times people treat their symptoms with substances rather that getting help. It is likely that many of the police calls that require assistance will ultimately be presented at the court house. This will be an important link to the continuum once everything is up and running.

Together we are planting seeds of equality while building strong and healthy institutions that are sensitive to the needs of people who are often disenfranchised—thanks to all for all you for all you do every day!