Richmond police officer changes policing to help mentally ill

Published: Nov. 16, 2017 at 5:53 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2017 at 12:29 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond police officer has changed his policing when it comes to one of society's most vulnerable populations.

Officer Patrick Ripley, a 17-year veteran with the Richmond Police Department, has patrolled the area of Forest Hill Avenue for the last four years.

For about a year, Ripley says he has been responding to trespassing and loitering calls at and near the WAWA. Many of the people, he learned, were residents of an assisted living facility down the street called Jones & Jones.

"I was tasked with trying to come up with a way to curb the complaints," Ripley said.

NBC12 has learned that the complaints aren't just coming from outside the facility. One resident says the conditions inside are so dire, he'd rather be homeless.

When Ripley began responding to trespassing calls, the first obvious answer was to just "shoo away the problem."

"So it was basically, 'Hey do me a favor, go somewhere,'" Ripley said.

But Officer Ripley found that wasn't working - The same people were becoming repeat offenders and some were even walking out in front of vehicles.

"The next obvious answer was to arrest away the problem," Ripley said.

He soon found out that arresting these people, many of whom were mentally ill, wasn't helping either.

"So at that point, I knew I had to come up with something else," he said.

Ripley reached out to the public defender's office, the commonwealth's attorney and the courts.

"When someone is arrested from Jones & Jones they do get arrested, however, instead of going through the typical criminal proceedings, we get them on to the mental health docket now," Ripley said, "Which is basically court ordered mental health treatment in lieu of jail time."

It's a new process that Ripley says has been successful.

"One of Chief Durham's focus points is safeguarding the community that just doesn't mean some of the community," Ripley said. "It means all of the community, especially the ones that can't really help themselves."

That means the disabled, elderly and mentally ill living at Jones & Jones now have a protector within the Richmond Police Department.

"Somebody has to watch out for them," Ripley said.

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