Southfield cops get valuable training by working crisis hotline - New York News

Southfield cops get valuable training by working crisis hotline

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Chief Eric Hawkins Chief Eric Hawkins
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WJBK) -

Veteran Southfield Police Officer Nick Cazan knows how to fight crime, but you may not realize he and his fellow cops also specialize in dealing with people who might be struggling with mental illness.

"I honestly believe that sometimes just a touch of the arm or touch of the shoulder shows somebody that you're being compassionate and caring," Cazan said.

On patrol, the officer came across a familiar face. He stopped to make contact with a man who calls himself Ben. He didn't need police help, but Cazan wanted to let Ben know he is available if that ever becomes the case.

"It might not help right now, but it might help if there's more of a serious situation," Cazan said.

The training happens in a very real life environment. The officers and Chief Eric Hawkins all answer crisis calls at Common Ground -- a crisis agency for Oakland County. It is a rare partnership that pays off on both ends.

"Common Ground was looking for some quality volunteers for their crisis hotline, and we were looking for some quality training," Hawkins said.

By volunteering once a month, the officers are able to learn the same strategies that crisis hotline workers use and put them to use in the field.

"Law enforcement, they tend to focus on the facts, and what we try to do is help them focus on the emotional well-being and try to help enhance those skills that they have," said Lisa Turbeville, a crisis line manager at Common Ground.

"Once you have an awareness and sensitivity of a person that has mental health issues, you can take an incident that is a social incident that has not yet elevated to a criminal incident and you can prevent that from becoming a law enforcement incident," Hawkins said.

The Common Ground hotline is answered 24 hours a day. The phone number is 1-800-231-1127.

For more information about Common Ground, you can visit their website at www.commongroundhelps.org.

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