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Syracuse Police Department requests funding for mental health services after officer shooting death

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)

The Syracuse Police Department is asking for more mental health services in the wake of the recent death of a police officer in the line of duty. Lt. Jason Tom presented a request to Syracuse lawmakers Wednesday, for up to $100,000 for comprehensive mental health services.

"We're in a very difficult time with our department in light of what recently happened, and we're realizing that we don't have enough support, which is why we are looking to enter into this agreement,” Tom said.

Tom said officers are still impacted by the death of officer Michael Jensen on April 14, who was killed in a shootout in the town of Salina, along with Onondaga County sheriff’s deputy Michael Hoosock.

The request is for Dr. Rebeccah Bernard-Dunn to provide services including crisis intervention, training, response to critical incidents, and individual or couple’s therapy. Tom said she already has a relationship with the department.

“She works not only with our peer support team currently to provide them training and guidance when we have an officer in crisis. She also works with our hostage negotiation team,” Tom said. “Every time there's a call out, she has not been able to make all of them, but she has come to call outs when hostage negotiation teams need mental health specialists.

Tom said having that existing relationship makes it easier for officers in crisis to call.

"Police officers don't want to talk to just anyone, he said. “They want to talk to someone who they can trust. And because she's been around our department and assisted on a voluntary basis already, she's established relationships with a lot of our officers."

Lawmakers could vote on the spending next week.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.