On Monday, the Oxford Police Department announced the outset of its Community Response Team, a new unit dedicated to cases that require additional police responses like victim services for people who experience sexual assaults, harassment, stalking or domestic violence.
According to OPD Chief Jeff McCutchen, this team was designed in response to discussions with concerned community members and has been in the works for the past 18 months. Every year, OPD responds to over 1,000 complaints that require victim services.
“One thing we want to do is connect our community partners with people that we interact with, those victims of crimes and victims of assault,” McCutchen said. “We want to provide them with long-term care and long-term solutions.”
Valerie Booth is the only full-time employee dedicated to the Community Response Team, which will also include volunteer officers and staff members. The unit will identify cases requiring victim services, train other officers to recognize these cases and pair people in need with appropriate services in the community.
At a town hall meeting facilitated by the Associated Student Body Senate, Mayor Robyn Tannehill said she had become aware of community concerns that sexual assaults, harassment and stalking cases had not been handled properly by OPD.
“We’re expecting police officers to be something they’re not,” Tannehill said. “We’re expecting them to be mental health professionals, counselors (and) a lot of things they simply aren’t trained to be.”
Booth, who has a degree in social work, completed a 10 week FBI program called ELEVATE in order to become OPD’s Community Response Team Coordinator. According to Tannehill, Booth recently met with representatives from every facility in Oxford that provides resources for victims in order to plan for how to connect people to these organizations.
“Our goal is not to just write the report and leave you sitting there, and I think we’ve done a lot of that,” Tannehill said. “I don’t want it to be that way anymore. I believe that this new (Community Response Team) is going to really help us in that department.”
McCutchen said Booth and her team will do daily follow-ups on cases during the victims’ court process and recovery process.
“We know this program will work because if we can reach one person or rescue one individual from a violent encounter, then we can save a generation,” the OPD press release announcing the official start of the unit read.