Officers and the Friends of Southfield Police present Gary Torgow with a plaque in appreciation of the college scholarships he provided to children of officers and dispatchers.

Officers and the Friends of Southfield Police present Gary Torgow with a plaque in appreciation of the college scholarships he provided to children of officers and dispatchers.

Photo by Aaron Huguley

Southfield PD to focus on mental health, substance abuse intervention, more in 2023

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published January 11, 2023


SOUTHFIELD — The Southfield Police Department is looking forward to 2023 and ways that they can better serve the community in the new year.

“The Southfield Police Department is very excited about 2023,” Police Chief Elvin V. Barren said. “We understand the importance of evolving as an agency to ensure that our tactics, training, equipment and community engagement remain consistent with national best practices in policing.”

In the new year, the force is focusing on the following initiatives: mental health, substance abuse intervention, gun safety, leveraging technology to combat crime, youth engagement and community engagement.

As a part of their emphasis on mental health, Southfield police recently adopted the International Association of Chiefs of Police “One Mind Initiative” with the intention of fostering positive interactions between law enforcement and individuals with mental health conditions. This initiative includes uniting public safety organizations with local communities and mental health organizations such as the Oakland Community Health Network, Common Ground, Southfield Human Services, local hospitals, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Working with these partners, the department hopes to develop a model policy that addresses law enforcement’s response to individuals with mental health conditions.

The Police Department has expanded its mental illness policy to include a crisis intervention team. The IACP requires that at least 20% of sworn officers be trained in crisis intervention or its equivalent; the department has exceeded this minimum. This training includes a weeklong intensive that educates officers on how to address mental health calls and deepens their understanding of various mental illnesses. All sworn officers are required to attend an annual 40-hour block of instruction that concentrates on mental health awareness. Crisis negotiators are assigned to the force’s SWAT team to further address the needs of those experiencing a mental health crisis.

Officers are drawing attention to substance abuse intervention to provide opportunities to divert individuals away from jail and into harm reduction treatment. The Police Department has renewed its relationship with Families Against Narcotics and their Hope Not Handcuffs program. This program encourages anyone battling a substance abuse disorder to come to one of FAN’s trained volunteer “angels,” who work to provide them with resources for finding help.

In addition to FAN, they’ve also committed to keeping the Comeback Quick Response Team, a collaborative program dedicated to reducing overdose-related mortality rates in Michigan. Deputy Chief Aaron K. Hughley emphasizes that timing is key after an overdose, and that within 72 hours of an incident, a police officer and a FAN-certified counselor are committed to following up and leading that individual down the road to recovery.

Gun safety is a priority to the Police Department as they were one of seven Oakland County agencies to partner with the Oakland County Board of Commissioners for a gun buyback program. The rationale behind this event is that irresponsible firearm ownership poses a threat to the safety and well-being of the community. Specifically, the possession of handguns, which can often get into the hands of minors, potentially with fatal consequences.

With the last gun buyback program, a total of 308 firearms were collected, with Southfield accounting for 117. In 2023, the force is eager to host another event and continue to provide education on responsible gun ownership at local businesses and schools by providing literature on gun safety and handing out free gun locks.

Department officials said they understand the significant role of technology and utilize it to reduce crime and advance suspect apprehension.

This year, they’ve leveraged technology by implementing new license plate readers, which are affixed to light poles and capture images of vehicles going up to 100 mph. Some of the investigative benefits of this technology aid in identifying stolen vehicles, missing persons, wanted persons, sex offenders and people violating personal protection orders. Five new drones have been issued to aid in search and rescue, accident reconstruction, evidence gathering, disaster response, crowd control, K-9 backup, and even hostage negotiations.

Broadening youth engagement is another topic on the agenda for 2023 and onwards.

“We cannot stand by and wait for our youth to bring the conversation to us; rather, it is imperative that we take it to them,” Hughley said. “Therefore, members of our department have partnered with community groups to initiate conversations with our youth about conflict resolution, pathways to success and the importance of having a plan.”

In response to this goal, a fourth school resource officer was assigned to the Southfield Public School District. The SROs are responsible for creating informative presentations that encourage school safety and crime prevention. The Community Policing Unit is dedicated to enhancing youth interaction with officers; some of their outreaches include the Badges and Books book giveaways, Holiday Sleigh of Giving and Shop With A Hero.

Community engagement with people of all ages is an important objective for the department, officials said, adding that they seek to further this relationship with the community through events like the annual block club parties, Hope not Handcuffs, gun lock giveaways, and a walk to raise awareness of domestic violence.

“A police department is only successful if it has the trust of the community it serves,” Hughley stated. That trust is established and maintained through genuine partnerships and engagement with the community.”