Sun Prairie Police Department designates 6 mental health officers

Sun Prairie Police Department responded to reports of armed robbery at BP gas station

Responding to a need officers on the street are seeing, the Sun Prairie Police Department is designating six officers and one supervisor to support individuals in the community dealing with a mental illness.

The officers will still handle regular patrol duties, but will reach out to individuals in the community dealing with a mental illness in an effort to connect with and help them.

The Sun Prairie Police Department joins the Madison Police Department in designating mental health officers. Earlier this year, MPD designated four officers to work full time with individuals having a mental illness.

“You can’t just do old school policing. You really have to step outside the box and look at it differently and say, ‘How can I help this person?” said Michelle Wilson, one of Sun Prairie’s mental health officers.

The six Sun Prairie officers come from diverse backgrounds to help them connect with a diverse community. One of the officers is bilingual, while one has a background in working in the corrections system and several have military backgrounds.

Sun Prairie is hoping to increase the number of officers in the department who receive Crisis Intervention Training. NAMI Dane County and the Madison Police Department work together to teach the CIT program at the Madison Police Training facility. The next four-day training session is scheduled for the first week of June.

The move by Sun Prairie to designate mental health officers is seen by NAMI Dane County as a positive change for the community.

“I would say it brings a level of confidence in the police and a level of comfort so that if a resident has a loved one that is in a crisis and police officers are called that they can have a better disposition and the outcomes are much greater for the individual,” said Sue Petkovsek, president of NAMI Dane County.