WOPD seeks to join collaborative initiative to minimize incidents of force

WEST ORANGE, NJ — In light of the current social climate in regard to police practices in the country, the West Orange Police Department is looking to expand its access to resources, including knowledge, guidance and training, in an effort to better serve its community in the cases of non-criminal crises, according to an Aug. 4 press release from the township. 

Similarly, the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris understands that issues of race can sometimes undermine mental health and the organization is, as a result, committed to anti-racism in all agency efforts. 

Through the development of a collaborative professional relationship between WOPD and MHAEM, the WOPD would have the opportunity to increase its success rate for appropriate disposition and interaction with non-criminal response calls as related to mental health issues. A full outline of the proposal for inclusion in the program has been sent by the West Orange administration to Township Council President Michelle Casalino and all council members. Approval for funding is needed by the council and will be discussed at the Aug. 11 virtual meeting. 

West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi expressed his optimism and support of this proposed collaborative effort. 

“This is the type of program that coincides with the core values of our community in terms of seeking out new solutions to old problems,” Parisi said. “It will help West Orange move forward with a renewed emphasis placed on enacting social change brought about by recent national events.” 

“Our police department is constantly open to the implementation of new and different programs, especially those types that reflect our ongoing commitment to find improved methods in keeping all our residents safe,” WOPD Chief James Abbott said. “Our goal has always been to de-escalate situations with new initiatives focusing on unnecessary force. Our potential participation in this collaborative effort holds promise for bringing us closer toward our objective.” 

The partnership between the WOPD and MHAEM will help prioritize appropriate response techniques and advocate for treatment rather than incarceration whenever appropriate. The WOPD is the sole nationally accredited law enforcement entity in all of Essex County. Accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies is the gold standard in law enforcement; all accredited agencies are required to promote and abide by the most contemporary best practices in the industry.