The Grand Prairie Police Department has launched a new program they hope will proactively help residents suffering from mental health and cognitive challenges, while simultaneously preparing officers.
The “Community Outreach Partnership and Education Program,” or COPE for short, allows residents with mental health challenges to register and meet with police to help them better understand their challenges.
“The hope is that when people register we will be able to go out and go to their homes, get to know them, get to know what their needs are,” said Courtney Runnels, who coordinates the program.
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The information that is gathered will then be available to officers if they encounter the person on a call, helping them better understand the proper course of action to ensure a positive outcome.
“The days of police officers just being crime fighters are long over,” Grand Prairie police Chief Daniel Scesney said.
He said the program has been a priority since he took over as chief of police earlier this year and, in addition to better preparing officers, the program will help direct residents to health care.
“Our community doesn’t have the ability to pick up the phone and have a mental health therapist at the door within four minutes but they can a police officer. Scesney said. "So we need to understand that part of our role is to help protect our folks in this way."
Anyone interested in registering can fill out an application online or print it out and deliver it to Grand Prairie police headquarters. Runnels and her team will then follow up to determine if the applicant qualifies and follow up with an in-person meeting.
“I feel like this will save lives, having officers know in advance will quite literally help us tailor our approach and get them to the help they need,” Scesney said.