Dover police chief not ready for counselors in patrol cars

Marvin Mailey

DOVER — There are a wide variety of tools available that officers from the Dover Police Department routinely use to address crime within the city and interact with the public every day.

However, there is one tool that Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey said he isn’t exactly comfortable with using just yet — embedded drug/mental health counselors in patrol cars.

Dover City Councilman Tanner Polce recently suggested to the chief that the police department have the embedded counselors ride along with officers on patrol to help assist with incidents involving drug use and mental-health disorders.

For now, Chief Mailey said he is a no-go on having embedded counselors ride along with patrol officers due to the inherent dangers involved in going directly to potentially volatile situations.

“We did look at what some of the other agencies are doing as far as having a counselor ride with an officer and that presented a lot of problems for us, so at this point, we’re not ready to make that jump,” Chief Mailey said. “Some of the problems that we saw was the liability factor of a counselor riding with an officer. If an officer should have to go to a hot complaint, an active shooter, we can’t take a counselor into that environment. I know they wear body armor and I know there’s measures taken.

“Typically, if something like that happened with one of our counselors and we had an officer with us, that officer has to stop and drop that counselor off at a safe location, because I, as chief of police, don’t want to put a civilian in that situation. That’s just like having a ride-along (citizen) with an officer. We don’t put ride-along’s in that situation. I kind of see these counselors as ride-alongs.”

Councilman Polce noted that several other police departments throughout the state, such as Smyrna, have been utilizing embedded drug counselors with their officers.

“I would strongly recommend that (Dover) be a bit bold and figure out how to make a program like that work because it’s demonstrating high efficacy not only in New Castle County, but Smyrna is seeing instant benefit,” said Councilman Polce. “I know that more departments will be coming on line very shortly, ranging from Ocean View, and Elsmere is also thinking about a program. I think it’s a great opportunity for us.

“I just think that we need to be a bit proactive and think outside the box and really continue to do the good work that you’re doing, but I would love to ideally see an embedded clinician with your teams.”

Chief Mailey didn’t completely nix the idea. He just said that he didn’t think counselors needed to ride along with patrol officers and would prefer to keep them out of harm’s way. He favors having counselors work alongside the city’s three community police officers.

“With that, there is a certain amount of follow-up required on the part of the counselor,” the chief said. “In other words, when (counselors) help someone they have to follow-up with the person. That takes that officer out of this chain or the workflow for the shift. Theoretically, that officer might be that officer on an 11-man shift, now they’re working 10. It reduces our manpower totals, so I’m concerned with that.

“That’s why I think the aspect of having them ride with the community police officer is more feasible. They’re not attached to the radio and their work is more independent. In other words, they come to work with a priority of things they need to do — community events, outreach events, follow-up on this, contact this, see what’s going on in this neighborhood. They can fit that task into their normal duty day where a patrol officer cannot.”

Opioid numbers, criminal stats connected

Each year, the number of Delawareans dying from drug overdoses continues to rise.

Preliminary estimates for 2018 indicate 419 overdose deaths across the state, an increase of 21 percent from the 2017 total of 345 deaths, according to the Division of Forensic Science. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Delaware number six in the nation for overdose mortality rate in 2017.

In 2018, first responders administered 3,728 doses of naloxone — an overdose reversing medication — compared to 2,861 in 2017, a 30 percent increase.

The ever-increasing numbers of active individuals with drug addiction also correlates to an uptick in crime in cities such as Dover.
The Dover Police Department’s total complaints increased by .48 percent in 2018 with a total of 43,026 complaints, which was 204 more complaints than the previous year (42,822).

However, the city experienced a 30.57 percent increase in violent crimes (346 in 2018 compared to 265 in ’17), which includes crimes such as murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The total number of serious Group A Crimes also increased by 4.34 percent (4,902 in 2018 compared to 4,698 in ’17).

“As I was looking at the spike in our criminal activity, in my opinion, it highlights an individual in active addiction’s behavior,” Councilman Polce said. “You see an increase in robberies, an increase in burglaries, so much so that in my community, and a community that Councilman (Matt) Lindell and I represent (west Dover), we’ve seen a spike in break-ins in cars.

“My car was actually (broken into about a month) ago, so these are all types of behavior that are classic for individuals still in active addiction.”

Chief Mailey said drug addiction often leads to other bad behaviors and can lead to more criminal activity. He said his department is doing its best to address the issue of drug addiction in the city.

“For right now, we offer a lot of outreach to people that need it,” he said. “We realize that people are going through addiction issues and it’s a ripple effect through our society. Addiction leads to health problems, it leads to mental problems, it leads to increased crime, so we know these things are all interrelated. We’re working in concert with the community, we’re offering outreach programs, but we also have the enforcement aspect, too.

“We realize that so many drugs are coming in because there’s such a great need for them. It’s no different than any other business, supply and demand. There’s a great demand there, so the supply’s there, so people come into the city to feed that craving that people have.”

Taking a proactive approach

Chief Mailey said he is certainly aware of the opioid crisis and that most of his police officers have received a form of training in interacting with individuals suffering from addiction.

Dover police arrested 718 people with drug offenses in 2018, down from 738 the previous year.

The chief noted those numbers can be misleading when it comes to the work his officers do regarding illegal drug use.

“Yes, we realize that we’re having more overdoses and there’s hidden figures, too, that aren’t captured by the police department with the EMS, they’re also responding, and Dover Fire is also responding to a lot of these, too,” Chief Mailey said. “We are seeing an increase. Officers are all carrying Narcan (an overdose reversing medication) now and we still have the Angel Program running. We’re doing just about everything we can do feasibly.

“The (Angel Program) has a pre-arrest aspect. It has an aspect of just voluntary participation. You can just walk into the police department with drugs and we will take them, not charge you, put them into evidence and then vet the person and then get them into counseling. If we do run across a person who, let’s just say committed a crime, we have to take enforcement on that.”

“He added, “We might issue a civil citation and we might take them to court, then if that person’s problem stems from drugs and they express an interest in receiving some addiction counseling, we’re getting that person sent in the right direction towards Connections for help.”

Councilman Polce praised the department for its shift in attitude towards those battling addiction.

“Historically, police officers are (there) to protect us and to arrest the bad guys, so it’s a shift or a reorientation of thinking as we use a civil citation our pre-arrest programs, so it’s nice to hear that we are utilizing that,” he said. “As an individual who is in active recovery, I’ve done a lot of dumb things many, many days, and put a lot of lives in jeopardy with a lot of my actions.

“Unequivocally, there are things that individuals who are in active addiction do and I would just say that we have seen day-after-day, especially as we take a hands-on approach with some of the work that we’re doing with Brandywine Counseling and Interfaith and some of our local homeless shelters, we see that the issues of opioid-use disorder and substance-abuse disorder are real and true to our community.”

As for now, Chief Mailey is content with the way his police department responds to those suffering from addiction and/or mental disorders.

“We’re working with Mobile Crisis (Intervention Services),” said Chief Mailey. “They can provide a counselor that can come out and offer the same services from a state-approved counselor that can follow-up on our cases. In other words, when we go to a house, we see a situation where there’s a mental-health crisis going on, we get on the phone to Mobile Crisis.

“‘Hey, we’re out at 246 Main Street. This gentleman’s going through a mental-health crisis. Can you send a counselor?’ They’re working 24/7, 365. They can dispatch a counselor to come to the scene, meet the officer and then we can do a handoff of services, or the officer can stand-by. We’re able to bridge that gap without taking away an officer from his normal duties.”

The chief wasn’t about to apologize for his feelings toward potentially putting a counselor in harm’s way.

“These other chiefs are fine with it – that’s their department,” he said. “I’m running the Dover Police Department, and this is the way I see it. I don’t want to put a counselor in that position.

“There’s a myriad of safety factors involved that give me pause, that gave us reasons not to go in that direction. We realize the climate we’re working in and I choose not to do that (put a counselor in with police patrol) right now.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment