When It Comes to Mental Illness, Arlington Police Aim to Be Proactive

The Boston Globe

By Emily Sweeney

On Feb. 15, Arlington police officers went to the home of a man suffering from mental health issues and removed dozens upon dozens of firearms from his residence.

The man not only had a hoarding problem, he also had a license to legally own weapons, known as a license to carry. He had stockpiled so many weapons that they needed three police cruisers to cart them away, according to Arlington police Chief Frederick Ryan.

“Clearly a potentially volatile situation was averted,” said Ryan, who credited the peaceful outcome to the way Arlington officers are trained to deal with individuals with mental health issues — and how they turn to the expertise of the department’s in-house social worker.

As a result of this method of policing, Ryan’s department was selected by the Council of State Governments Justice Center as one of a handful of law enforcement mental health learning sites in the country.

It is the only police department in Massachusetts and just one of 10 in the country to receive that designation, which positions Arlington police as a place where other law enforcement agencies can update their policies regarding mentally ill residents and tap into the expertise of the department’s mental health clinician, who has been on staff since 2010.

The mental health clinician has an office in the Arlington police station and assists officers whenever they encounter someone struggling with mental health issues — such as the case with the hoarding situation at the gun owner’s home.

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