FSPD works with Harbor House on Pre-Arrest Diversion Program

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 996 views 

The Fort Smith Police Department is partnering with another Fort Smith non-profit organization, this time to get help for those in need. FSPD and Harbor House launched the program designed to reduce recidivism, said Aric Mitchell, FSPD public information officer.

Dubbed the Fort Smith Pre-Arrest Diversion Program (FSPAD), the new option will provide direct access to intervention resources and information to enable FSPD officers “the discretion of diverting individuals who commit eligible minor misdemeanor offenses away from the criminal justice system,” Mitchell said Monday (Nov. 9).

By providing direct access to intervention resources and information, FSPAD will give FSPD officers the discretion to divert those who commit eligible minor misdemeanor offenses away from the criminal justice system. It gives those in the program voluntary access to mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse treatment instead of immediate jail time, Mitchell said.

“Since Chief Baker took the full-time role in September of 2019, we have been operating under a vision statement in which we strive to improve the lives of everyone we encounter. Daily, our officers come into contact with those in need of help due to a mental health or behavioral issue, as well as substance abuse. A program such as the FSPAD that diverts individuals in need away from jail and to a treatment provider can be a step towards treatment, reducing recidivism and reducing the jail population,” said Deputy Chief Waymon Parker II.

To be eligible for the program, a person must be 18 or older with no prior sexual or violent offenses and not at risk to themselves or others. Eligible minor misdemeanor offenses include  possession of marijuana paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, misdemeanor criminal trespass, misdemeanor theft of property, misdemeanor criminal mischief, minor in possession and solicitation of prostitution, Mitchell said.

“The program is voluntary, so we don’t know how widely used it will be at this point. However, it’s an option that can help individuals with issues advancing beyond their control who are not a danger to themselves or others to get the help that they need,” Parker said, noting the program is another example of what’s possible when a police department works with community organizations.

“The department has worked to develop good relationships with many other organizations within the community as well, such as the Crisis Intervention Center and the Five West Crisis Stabilization Unit. Programs such as these would not be possible without the buy-in of our officers. Our officers have enthusiastically embraced these directives and see the potential benefits,” he said.

FSPD announced Oct. 21 it will staff an office at the Crisis Intervention Center in Fort Smith to provide safety and services to the thousands of adults and children in the community annually affected by domestic violence. The department believes FSPAD will increase community safety and well-being by offering direct access. It also will allow PSPD officers to prioritize more pressing public safety issues, Mitchell said.

“The Fort Smith Police Department in partnership with Harbor House Inc. is dedicated to developing new ideas to address underlying issues that often contribute to the cycle of minor misdemeanor offenses,” Mitchell said in a press release.