Chief Toth Speaks on CARES Team and Police Public Image
By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter
During his report to the Chelsea City Council at its June 21, 2021, meeting, Police Chief Ed Toth took time to explain his department's partnership with the CARES Team and respond to some people's perceptions of the department.
CARES Team is a Washtenaw County Community Mental Health program consisting of an interdisciplinary team of mental health professionals that includes nurses, social workers, crisis services professionals, psychiatrists, addiction specialists, peer counselors, and medical assistants.
Among its many services, CARES Team provides crisis intervention. If a community member has a concern over someone close, CARES can be contacted to intervene. Law enforcement and CARES often work together in addressing crisis situations of a mental health nature.
“If a family member signs a petition for a pickup, CARES may get that from the probate court,” Chief Toth told the Council and listening public. “They will come out here and then call us to assist them in taking this person into protective custody.”
Washtenaw County has three CARES Team locations—Ann Arbor, Whitmore Lake, and Chelsea.
Mayor Johnson clarified the two ways that the CARES team becomes involved. Any community member can call CARES themselves. Or, should the police be contacted, the department can call in the CARES team.
Chief Toth added to the Mayor’s observation by explaining that the police will often get a call from a resident concerned over the behavior change they see in someone close, but it’s not a crisis. The police will refer them to CARES and not get involved.
“We want the person to make the call,” emphasized the Chief. “That’s the main thing—make the call and get help as early as possible because once it gets to crisis mode, that’s when things can go south quickly.”
Chief Toth referred to an article in the Washington Post titled, “Crisis counselors are being hailed as police alternatives. It’s too heavy a burden, some say.”
“I’ve talked with mental health workers and social workers about this issue,” stated Toth. “I have a very good friend who is in that position. They’re reluctant to go knock on someone’s door when they’re under a schizophrenic crisis without law enforcement.”
“That’s just the reality of this,” added the Chief. “We talk about substitute police and all that. We’d love to have someone else go than us, but they really need the assistance when someone is in crisis.”
Shifting subjects, the Police Chief also commented on a long conversation he had with a resident about the perception of some that the Police Department is “not really welcoming.”
“That kind of took me back a bit,” the Chief told the Council. “I need to let everyone know that if any person is not treated with the utmost professionalism and respect by members of this department, I need to know about that. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, or what you believe in. I can’t do anything if I don’t know what’s going on. I want to make that perfectly clear.”
To emphasize his point, Chief Toth read his department’s mission statement. “Provide quality service to the citizens of our community, while maintaining public trust, protecting the rights of all persons while demonstrating professionalism through the development of community partnerships in an effort to reduce criminal activity.”