Tuesday, October 19, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 22nd, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 30

Santa Maria Police Department wants to enhance mental health services

By Caleb Wiseblood

At some point in the future, the Santa Maria Police Department plans to implement a “mental health car,” which will respond to emergency calls related to mental health crises with an officer and behavioral wellness clinician. 

Santa Maria’s Chief of Police Marc Schneider (left) and Paul Conor (right), of Conor Consulting, took turns outlining priorities and objectives included in the SMPD’s 2022-2024 Strategic Plan during a community input meeting on Sept. 20.

Santa Maria Police Chief Marc Schneider said it’s part of the department’s goal of enhancing its mental health services. He discussed that and more during a Sept. 20 community meeting where the department received input on its 2022-24 Strategic Plan. 

One meeting attendee expressed concerns that a single car wouldn’t be enough to benefit a city as large as Santa Maria. Schneider said that the department hopes to designate multiple cars in the future—if its budget allows.

“It just comes down to resources and working with the county and making sure that they have appropriate staffing and budget to support that because it is a commitment and a significant expense as well,” Schneider said.

During the meeting, Paul Conor of Conor Consulting took turns with Schneider in fielding questions and outlining the plan’s priorities and objectives, which they described as an work in progress. To ensure that the plan’s goals are met, Connor said the SMPD will apply the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, responsible, and has a timeframe) principle to each action item. 

“By making sure all of our action items adhere to this SMART principle, we’re able to make sure that we’re actually making changes in the organization,” Conor said.

As an example, Conor said, the department plans to implement its mental health and wellness committee (which will oversee the mental health car program) by Jan. 30, 2022.

“You can see how this action item is easy to track. We know a date by when we want to have it accomplished, we know what we want to accomplish, and we know who is responsible for accomplishing it,” Conor said. “If you don’t measure it, and no one is responsible, then nothing ever gets done.”

Following further discussion regarding both mental health and racial profiling issues in Santa Maria, one attendee aimed to steer the conversation away from both topics, summarizing the meeting’s dialogue as too “touchy-feely,” and calling out some of the proposed policies as making it harder for cops to do their jobs.

“I find it interesting that everyone here is worried about the touchy-feely part of all this, yet there are so many of us business owners in town that are suffering constant burglaries and thefts. I’d like to know how many of you own businesses that have suffered from community theft,” he said.

“We need to get back to basics. We can’t even lock people up anymore,” the attendee continued. “It’s sad that police officers can’t even be police officers because of all this touchy-feely stuff. Let’s get back to the Old West and treat people like they should be treated.”

The comment triggered multiple responses from other attendees, including “you’re attacking everyone in this room,” before Schneider asked the audience to settle down and save comments not related to the proposed Strategic Plan for a different forum.

After public feedback is collected and taken into consideration, the department hopes to make final adjustments to the plan and present it to the Santa Maria City Council sometime in December.

Weekly Poll
How do you feel about Santa Maria's drive-in potentially closing for affordable housing?

I think it's a great option—no one goes to the drive-in anymore.
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