“21st Century Policing”: Therapist to join JMU Police Department

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 9:23 AM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - James Madison University’s Police Department (JMUPD) is adding a new member to its team who will look a bit different from a typical first responder.

When Chief Anthony Matos began serving the JMU campus a little over a year ago, a top priority was developing a 21st-century policing model. Thanks to a $350,000 COPS grant from the Department of Justice, it will be able to use a co-response model with the addition of a therapist to its police force.

“[That] is a de-escalation model for 21st-century policing that enables therapists to respond with police officers into the field and provide services to deescalate and provide resources,” Chief Matos said.

The therapist would assist with calls dealing with mental health crises, emotional distress, or wellness checks.

JMUPD hopes to have the therapist trained and on board by next spring semester. They will receive response training with the goal of bringing potentially dangerous situations to a calm and productive end for students, while also connecting students with the resources and mental health care they may need.

“I think we’re going to absolutely be a leader in this type of policing model,” Chief Matos said. “Other localities are doing this type of co -response model and you see that as a new way of 21st-century policing, but in terms of the university segment, I don’t think there are many others [with this type of model], so I think we will be leaders and be able to show how this will look with a community of 24,000 students, faculty, and staff.”

Grant funding runs through August 2024.