The Greensboro City Council spent a good portion of the Thursday, July 15 work session talking about the Greensboro Police Department (GPD).

After the meeting, Councilmember Justin Outling, who is running for mayor, said, “It’s a great improvement to have a work session on public safety.  Now we need to do it with regularity.

At the work session the council heard from the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) that has been analyzing data from the GPD.

Jake Cramer of RTI said that they had looked at over 1 million police events over the past three years and found that about two-thirds were calls to service and about one-third were police initiated.

Brian Aagaard of RTI said, “Greensboro is ahead of the curve with the Behavioral Response Team.”

The Behavioral Response Team is made up of six officers who have Crisis Intervention Training, who are paired with mental health professionals who are also city employees, and answer calls that appears to involve someone with mental health issues.

Greensboro Police Chief Brian James said that the Behavioral Response Team had answered over 2,000 calls this year, which is about 75 percent of all mental health calls for service to the Police Department.  James said that one team couldn’t cover the city 24/7, and when the team wasn’t available they tried to send an officer who had CIT training.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan asked if it was time to expand the program.

James noted that the team was created from existing personnel and adding more officers would likely mean hiring more officers.

Councilmember Tammi Thurm said, “Because we are on the leading edge of this, I think we need to focus on making sure that these folks don’t get poached to start a program in another municipality.”

She said, “We want to make sure we aren’t training officers for other cities.”

Councilmember Michelle Kennedy said that the cost benefit to preventing repeated calls to 911 and use of emergency services needed to be considered.

James agreed and said, “When people don’t get the help they need they are going to call the police over and over again.”