MAYS LANDING— In a continued effort to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the mental health/ IDD/ Special Needs community the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office will participate in the Atlantic and Cape May County Mental Health/Law Enforcement Community Awareness Symposium, Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Cary Shill announced.
The symposium, which will be held at the Atlantic Cape Community College, Cape May Campus Auditorium will provide an opportunity for the community to learn about the efforts, initiatives, and policies that have and are being developed to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the mental health/ IDD/ Special Needs community.
“Now, more than ever, it is extremely important for law enforcement to have an open dialogue with the community that we serve in order to understand the needs and issues to foster healthy relationships and bridge any gaps that exist between law enforcement and members of the special needs, mental health, and intellectual disabilities communities,” said Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Cary Shill.
The symposium is hosted by ACPO Victim Witness Coordinator Raymond Royster and Pat Jones, COO of the ARC of Atlantic County. Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Shill and ACPO Chief of Atlantic County Detectives Bruce K. DeShields will also participate on a panel at the symposium.
“This event will highlight the efforts being made to help bridge the gaps between law enforcement and members of the special needs, mental health, and intellectual disabilities communities. The policies and procedures that will be discussed are steps in the right direction to increasing public safety for all members of the communities in Atlantic and Cape May counties,” said ACPO Victim Witness Coordinator Raymond Royster.
The following topics will be discussed at the symposium:
- ICAT/ ABLE training
- CIT: Crisis Intervention Training
- Alternative/ Co-Response initiatives
- Attorney General Directive 2020-14
- What resources are available for the community
- The Special Needs Registries in both counties
- Challenges and suggestions
- Community Engagement efforts
In the weeks, leading up to the symposium, Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Cary Shill, ACPO Chief of County Detectives Bruce K. DeShields and ACPO Victim Witness Coordinator Raymond Royster attended a meet and greet in Egg Harbor Township for law enforcement and consumers of the Arc of Atlantic County.
“I am Cary Shill and I am the Atlantic County Prosecutor and it’s a little different from being a police officer, but we have a lot of detectives at our office who work to investigate and solve cases by working with the police departments to make sure that everyone is safe in our county,” Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Cary Shill told a group of Arc consumers during the meet and greet.
Also, in attendance was Egg Harbor Township Chief of Police Michael Hughes, Capt. Frederick Spano and EHT Community Policing Officer, Patrolman Edward Bertino.
Capt. Spano said the Egg Harbor Township Police Department was very thankful to join the members of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and the Arc of Atlantic County staff for a community engagement activity involving residents with special needs.
“Spending time with them was an essential reminder that police officers should improve our relationships and forge new ones with our community members having special needs. Regular interaction and socializing with them, even if just checking in for a few minutes, is mutually beneficial for the resident and police officer. Just being aware of the varying needs of each resident should have tremendous value to our officers when having to respond to them for an emergency. We really enjoyed our time with Horace, Albert, Terek, Lisa, and Amber, and intend to visit them often while introducing other police officers to them,” said Capt. Spano.
These members of Atlantic County’s law enforcement shared some laughs, some conversation, listened to music, had some pizza and played some corn hole during the meet and greet. Chief DeShields and Capt. Spano took a few moments to give Arc consumers Terek Collins and Horace Brown ACPO sunglasses and then the three posed for a photo.
“We enjoy opportunities for people with Intellectual and developmental disabilities to have a chance to get to know others from their community,” said Pat Jones, COO of the Arc of Atlantic County.
Pat Jones said, the Arc was delighted to host a meet and greet for guests from the Egg Harbor Township Police Department and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.
“Our job is to make sure everyone who lives in the county is safe and when someone in the county has a problem our job is to work together with the police departments to try to make everybody happy. When I was told about the meet and greet with all of you, I really wanted to come here and meet all of you and say, hi,” said ACPO Chief of Atlantic County Detectives Bruce K. DeShields.
The Atlantic and Cape May County Mental Health/Law Enforcement Community Awareness Symposium
Date: November 8, 2021
Location: Atlantic Cape Community College, Cape May Campus Auditorium
The symposium will also be streamed virtually at 11 a.m.