TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa Police Department will soon have a first-of-its-kind team on the force: official partners protecting city streets while on patrol.
Tampa police tell 8 on your Side the goal is to help officers as they respond to calls involving mental health.
The two-person teams will be tasked with fighting crime while helping citizens who are struggling with behavioral issues, many of which go undiagnosed.
The Tampa Police Department, like many agencies around the country, are now hiring mental health professionals to pair up with officers. The job positions need to be filled ASAP.
The mental health crisis in Tampa is growing by the day, according to Tampa Police. In 2020, officers on patrol were handling 14 cases per day when answering calls, the majority of which involving the mental health of citizens.
Officers found themselves wearing many hats upon arrival at a crime scene, stretched thin while trying to handle many issues. At the crime scene, officers must immediately secure the location, ensure the safety of citizens, question witnesses and help those in crisis — all while often trying to stabilize a volatile situation.
The mental health aspect is crucial to address, but so are the other tasks officers face.
Police tell us it boils down to this: They are first responders, but they can’t be the only responder.
Now, they have unique back-up.
Since the mental health numbers are increasing exponentially, the danger also increases for police officers who handle 911 calls.
Those who have been part of a pair say it works well. It’s needed, and it saves lives.
Tampa Police Officer Angie Torres has done this partnership before with San Diego Police, She calls it the perfect pairing — the police and the professional. One handles crime; the other handles crisis.
“We were a team, we were one. Our best interest was to help the community,” she explained.
When she rolled up on scene during a call with her counselor partner, she said it was game time.
“We are gong to be boots on the ground,” she said. “We are going to be responding to all crisis calls.”
Licensed clinicians need to apply for the full-time job, including a competitive salary, full benefits and a $1,000 signing bonus.
“This is definitely different than sitting behind a desk. This is out in the field, boots on the ground,” said Chris Riviere from the Agency for Community Treatment Services which offers a comprehensive approach to assisting with mental illness.”
They want to help people in need from start to finish, from the day police arrive at the scene to the health and treatment of patients who are suffering.
He tells us those boots are needed now, and he’s hiring. He just needs appolicants.
“You’re there,” Riviere said. “You’re out in the field. You’re working to save someone’s life in crisis.”
For more information on how can you apply for the position, click here.