The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership

The CopDoc Podcast Ep 013 Dr. Sarah Abbott, Lasell University

March 22, 2021 Dr. Sarah Abbott Season 1 Episode 13
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
The CopDoc Podcast Ep 013 Dr. Sarah Abbott, Lasell University
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
The CopDoc Podcast Ep 013 Dr. Sarah Abbott, Lasell University
Mar 22, 2021 Season 1 Episode 13
Dr. Sarah Abbott

We interview Dr. Sarah Abbott, a Licensed CIinical Social Worker (LICSW) clinical, and professor.  Sarah has extensive experience working as a con-responding clinician in Massachusetts police departments.  She managed the expansion of the program, increasing service to 15 police agencies for Advocates in Framingham, MA.  Sarah is now running Abbott Solutions for Justice, LLC.    

Show Notes Transcript

We interview Dr. Sarah Abbott, a Licensed CIinical Social Worker (LICSW) clinical, and professor.  Sarah has extensive experience working as a con-responding clinician in Massachusetts police departments.  She managed the expansion of the program, increasing service to 15 police agencies for Advocates in Framingham, MA.  Sarah is now running Abbott Solutions for Justice, LLC.    

[00:00:02.690] - The CopDoc Podcast Intro

Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas The CopDoc Podcast thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing, communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast. Hello, everybody. We've got to talk to Sarah Abbott, a professor and associate professor from Lascelles College here in Massachusetts. And today we're going to be talking about her program, something she started and grew a jail diversion program.


[00:00:52.680] - Steve Morreale

So I wanted to say good morning to you, Sarah, and please introduce yourself to the audience.


[00:00:56.610] - Sarah Abbott

Good morning, Steve. Thank you for having me. It's great to be here today. My name is Sarah Abbott and I'm originally from the UK and I emigrated to the US some twenty-eight years ago to seek adventure.


[00:01:10.200] - Sarah Abbott

And boy, did I find it. So I'm a transplant. I came here for opportunity, for education and to live a life that I wasn't able to have in Leeds at the time. So when I got here, I became a social worker. My social work training started in the UK and I was a social worker with folks with mental health concerns in a young adult residential program. I progressed through my master's degree. I got a master's in S.J from UMass Lowell and then eventually went forward and got my doctorate from Northeastern University in their Law, Policy and Society program.


[00:01:49.920] - Sarah Abbott

Along the way, I did work for a crisis team at advocates in Framingham, and my journey with Joe Diversional started in 2002.


[00:01:59.220] - Sarah Abbott

At that time, then chief at that time, then Deputy Chief Craig Davis of the Framingham Police Department approached advocates with the brilliant idea of embedding a master's level social worker into the department. This was a program that had not been done anywhere that we could find and took the idea of collaboration with mental health organizations to a whole new level.


[00:02:24.360] - Steve Morreale

So let me ask you, use the term jail diversion. When I first heard that myself, I thought, what the hell are they talking about? And how did you come to that? And what exactly does that mean? And for the listener, for the police chief, for the sergeants, the lieutenants and for community leaders, try to explain what that meant. What was the intention?


[00:02:41.700] - Sarah Abbott

Certainly, and I'm glad you asked that question. It's rather limiting truthfully as a concept and model now, given the growth and expansion of the work. But at the time, we tried to articulate what the goal was. And at that time, our explicit intent was to prevent individuals with mental health concerns entering the criminal justice system through law enforcement and ending up in jail. So it was that direct link that we were trying to make in this articulation of the model.


[00:03:11.430] - Sarah Abbott

Over time it's evolved and it was always a co response program, but now more accurately is referred to as prepress corespondents program. And the concept of corespondents was Craig Daviss. And he invited a social worker from advocates, which was made in 2003 to become a part of operations in the patrol division. I was hired due to my interest and expertize at that time in the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system for my academic and scholarly work. And I had done a five year service crisis team prior to going into the police department.


[00:03:52.590] - Sarah Abbott

So I was in the unique position of being very interested in criminal justice and being interested in crisis intervention. And it was really the meeting of those two worlds that afforded me the opportunity to be the first ride-along response clinician in the Commonwealth.


[00:04:09.540] - Steve Morreale

So had you seen as you approach that and as Chief Davis made the recommendation to pair you were there are other models out there that you were able to reach out for?


[00:04:18.720] - Sarah Abbott

That's a great question. Obviously, as many police leaders will articulate, we don't like to reinvent the wheel. And Chief Davis looked and explored other models that were operating. The primary model that was operating was the Memphis, Tennessee Crisis Intervention Team Model, which launched in 1989 and was has been a long-standing part of the way that police officers trained to respond to these calls.


[00:04:43.590] - Sarah Abbott

And Chief Davis didn't feel that that was enough for him and the department that he had and the officers and the population that he wanted to address. And he felt that it would be much more beneficial to his department to incorporate training. Certainly formal training is very important when you're launching any partnership. But he articulated the value of the informal training, which would happen when police officers right alongside me as their partner, we go to hundreds, if not thousands of calls during my time there.


[00:05:15.540] - Sarah Abbott

And they would learn from me and I would learn from them.


[00:05:18.660] - Sarah Abbott

And it would be the perfect blend of safety and security on calls which are unpredictable and dynamic, but also the calming presence of a non- uniformed social worker whose role is intently to divert, where appropriate, and to de-escalate calls for service.


[00:05:36.270] - Steve Morreale

So you walk into somebody's office their cruiser for the first time, how the hell did that? I can imagine that that was well received at first.


[00:05:48.000] - Sarah Abbott

You know, I I have a story about that. So because this hadn't been done anywhere before, there was some natural trepidation and suspicion about me, about my role, about what I could bring to this, not to mention I spoke funny and wasn't from around here. So I had a credibility gap. So breach what I used was a sense of humor, which I have a healthy dose of and an ability to relate to officers in terms of really trying to engage them in relationship building.


[00:06:18.660] - Sarah Abbott

And obviously that was a process I had the distinct pleasure of being paired with a sergeant, Michael Esposito, who was a sergeant in Framingham on the four to 12 shift my shift for many years. And he was a very well respected officer and sergeant.


[00:06:36.750] - Sarah Abbott

He was the patrol sergeant and he had and has the gift of communication.


[00:06:42.000] - Sarah Abbott

And he approached me and said, you know, let's try this and grabbed me from dispatch where I was sitting in the corner hoping people would talk to me, at least ask me if I wanted anything for dinner, which, you know, is an important part of the shift. And he took me out and he said, we've got this guy and he's been calling the Framingham Police Department multiple times a week, engaging fire rescue, EMS, police for different sets of entities appearing on scene due to his inability to control his calling of nine one one.


[00:07:17.280] - Sarah Abbott

So Sergeant Esposito said, let's go to this guy's house and let's see how he's doing. And I want to see if you can figure out how we can help this and stop these calls because it's costing the city thousands of dollars. We don't feel like helping him and it's taking away resources that are needed elsewhere.


[00:07:35.280] - Sarah Abbott

So we went to this gentleman's house and upon entry, he let us in. I introduced myself and say, I am a social worker. The Framingham police think that you may need some help. Can we talk? And he allowed us to come in and I observed multiple phones. This was in 2003. There were still landlines and there were multiple phones in various stages of disrepair.


[00:07:58.650] - Sarah Abbott

There was a phone on the wall that had been removed, like forcibly by this gentleman in order to prevent him from calling nine one one.


[00:08:06.480] - Sarah Abbott

And we immediately realized, oh, I immediately realized. And the sergeant knew but didn't know what to call it necessarily, that this was a significant case of someone with obsessive compulsive disorder tendencies and a condition in that regard. So I was able to connect this individual who legitimately could not stop calling nine one one and had tried many, many ways to regulate this behavior. I was able to get him into treatment for the first time. He was in his early 20s.


[00:08:35.610] - Sarah Abbott

He'd never seen a psychiatrist or had any mental health support. I got him into treatment. The calls stop and Sergeant Esposito and I would go visit him and visited him regularly. He was part of our route and we'd just go check in on him. And really, it was one of the first ways in which I knew and he knew that this was going to be a slam dunk because this was a great frustration, a chronic repeat situation and no end in sight.


[00:09:02.970] - Sarah Abbott

So that was the first case. And he said to me, if you get this right, I'll tell everybody that you're the best thing since sliced bread. And this program will be a success.


[00:09:11.940] - Sarah Abbott

But if you add up, then you're going back to England and that was it. And no pressure. Right. And I felt like calling my mom and being like, wow, I don't know, I'm going to do this.


[00:09:25.140] - Sarah Abbott

But it was very straightforward for me. It was a very clear referral and it worked. So it was a win-win. And after that, there was no turning back.


[00:09:33.000] - Steve Morreale

It sounds like he threatened to deport you even though you were a citizen!. I'm not sure of that.


[00:09:40.050] - Steve Morreale

And so you a couple of things that a couple of things that stand out and and that is that police are called to calls where in the past they have been ill equipped to handle and that they don't have the clinical knowledge, the clinical experience, the clinical benefit of being able to speak to another clinician at a treatment center or at a hospital. How is that valued a licensed clinician into a police situation to work in tandem? What's the benefit?


[00:10:10.680] - Sarah Abbott

Yeah, multiple. So the first just going back a little bit. All of the success of the program hinges on the relationship between the clinician and the officers. As you know, law enforcement is has its own culture and operations and entering that world from a mental health organization, you know, you need to learn a whole new language. So to be able to do this job well and to get the outcomes that we've achieved, the clinician has to be perfectly.


[00:10:38.390] - Sarah Abbott

And appropriate for that department, so assuming that is in place, which it was in Framingham, the benefit to the officers was that they were able to resolve calls at the root as opposed to referring to their original three Goto's right, which is arrest or was arrested, take them to the hospital or kind of patch it together and leave, knowing that the next shifts probably going to end up back there. But you've got limited time. And I believe that time is the essence to the success of this.


[00:11:07.250] - Sarah Abbott

If the clinician is on scene immediately, if they're on the first response line, they are seeing, hearing, smelling and experiencing exactly what the officer is seeing, hearing and experiencing, that we are able to translate that into into an assessment which all happens rapidly, almost in our minds about what the needs of this individual are right now. It's not so much about what's happened to this person in their history and any chronic long term concerns that they have.


[00:11:35.690] - Sarah Abbott

It's like what brought us here today and what's going to be the most effective way to resolve this so that the police don't end up back here and more importantly, that the person gets the help that they need, which is the goals that police and social workers share, is to get people the help that they need. I do not believe it's been a lack of willingness or openness to this. It has been two systems running in parallel paths, seeing very often the same people repeatedly and not being able to communicate.


[00:12:07.040] - Sarah Abbott

And what this has done is brought the the resources inside the office to grab that resource. It's theirs. It is a police resource. The police access it. They deploy it beautifully.


[00:12:19.010] - Sarah Abbott

If they decide that this is a law enforcement matter, they don't have to involve us. So the program is voluntary for officers to use, which is why I believe it's been so successful. It is not a specialized unit. Anybody in the department can access the clinician, detectives, dispatchers, the chief, the mayor, the patrolman, patrol women, school resource officers, anyone can access the clinician during their time in the city and there's no access and entry way.


[00:12:49.730] - Sarah Abbott

It's like we need you on this call. You're on the call.


[00:12:52.520] - Steve Morreale

So you've got a sergeant, you've got a deputy forwardthinking. I'm not saying that officers aren't forward-thinking, but until you can prove yourself to them, they're not interested. They're just interested. At first, when I hear you talk about Memphis as a model and you tell me that is thirty years or older and we're just hitting this a few years in some departments this year, that's crazy. Why did it take so long to drag this idea into the system?


[00:13:18.800] - Steve Morreale

But as you were working with other officers and as you had the imprimatur of Sergeant Esposito, how did that happen? Did you start ending up in other cruisers? Were they still reluctant at first trying to pick your brain to try to understand whether even they could trust you with the vouch?


[00:13:34.970] - Sarah Abbott

You know, it's not as difficult as I imagine it be. It took less time to integrate than I expected. That said, I had to prove myself to each officer or to clusters of officers. And it's interesting that what happened was that the sergeant took a day off work to detail and wasn't available. So the cover of the sergeant in the beginning was very helpful. But there were opportunities then for other officers to see what I could do. And it emerged in that it wasn't a full ride along all the time in his absence in the beginning.


[00:14:09.980] - Sarah Abbott

But what would happen is that I've been dispatched. They'd call for me on the scene so someone would take me to a scene, then bring me back. Right. So I'd be involved in the case, but not committed for the eight hours. And then over time, they saw me as an ally. They saw me as someone who was not there to judge what they were doing. They saw me as someone who was offering suggestions and help, but not mandating it.


[00:14:32.120] - Sarah Abbott

And I feel that those are the necessary ingredients. And because of that, officers were not long to jump in. And it's interesting now the leadership of the Framingham Police Department, the chief currently is Chief Lasta Baker, and he was a patrolman on the shift that I started on. So it's institutionalized. I've been that department has had the program longer than most of the department members. So the initial crew that I was on with were very welcoming. And again, I believe that I was naturally inclined for this work.


[00:15:05.360] - Sarah Abbott

I love crisis work. I love seeing things unfold. I love being part of the puzzle together to help people like pressure of only having five minutes to do it. And so it was a natural fit. We were both Taipei and whoever I partnered with quickly learned that I wasn't that to interfere or report on them to the chief or the wife even.


[00:15:25.340] - Steve Morreale

So, I recall being at a presentation that you made and you were talking about, again, the way it evolved, the trust that was earned over time and the reluctance, fairly soon of officers not wanting to go on calls if there was an emotionally disturbed person and if the clinician wasn't there. Can you talk about that?


[00:15:47.280] - Sarah Abbott

Yeah, it's a testament to the way that the program evolved in that officers were seeing the value of it. One of the other pieces that really led to a propelling of credibility was the power of my ability in the beginning and subsequent clinicians ability to intervene in post arrest situations. So although this is arguably a pre arrest model, people get arrested and have mental health concerns. We do not divert violent people committing violent offenses. We do not have domestic violence cases, a mandatory arrest laws in existence in Massachusetts.


[00:16:22.350] - Sarah Abbott

But that does not mean that once the person has been arrested and during booking, it becomes very clear to the officer or the lieutenant in charge that this person is in distress. And the thought of keeping them in a cell eight by 10 for a long weekend quickly became an opportunity for me to intervene. And so there was a post arrest which helped get buy in for the service in general, was able to interview people in custody in the station and get them out of there and out of the department, which was completely ill equipped to maintain someone who was head banging or trying to hurt themselves in custody.


[00:17:00.870] - Sarah Abbott

So those types of interventions became quite common. While I was in the station, they were like, oh, why you're you here? Come and see this guy. And then when I was on the road, they were calling from the station and then I couldn't be in two places at once. And very quickly the program grew and has grown exponentially.


[00:17:18.690] - Sarah Abbott

So current operations are a four full-time staff assigned to the Framingham Police Department through advocates, and they're almost 24/7. And that is the goal of the current chief because it's become difficult to say to day shift. You can't have this coalition and they're saying there are multiple, multiple times a day. These calls don't stop or start at four p.m. or eight a.m. And so we found the need. The more we've been embedded, the more integrated we've become, the more invaluable we are.


[00:17:48.600] - Sarah Abbott

And officers are using us. Sometimes we we're looking to double up in between nine p.m. and midnight in Framingham. We need two resources available. So, yeah.


[00:17:59.250] - Steve Morreale

So I want to get into mental health and I just want to set the table about the mental health of officers and the things that they're involved in. But let me back up for a moment. This is two things. There's two of the things that come to mind. And number one is how do you select can any clinician do this? There has to be a particular training, a particular proclivity, and not all can do that. So how do you select and how do you realize imagine it's hard enough to select a police officer, keep them on probation to see if they can make the cut.


[00:18:27.390] - Steve Morreale

Is it the same, even though it's a licensed clinician?


[00:18:30.120] - Sarah Abbott

Certainly. That's a great question. And is one of the key ingredients, as I mentioned, of the model success is the ability of the clinician to enter a law enforcement environment, to be completely isolated from other clinicians. Often these clinicians are the only mental health resource in the building with one hundred and thirty five police officers. So they have to like that environment. They want to need to want to be in it. They need to be able to navigate the roles and the differentiation between law enforcement and clinician in terms of an attitude.


[00:19:05.730] - Sarah Abbott

You need to be flexible, nimble. Every job is your job. Everything they asked you to do is part of your job as long as it's appropriate. And it always has been. And that can include clinician that I've supervised in the past. I was in the department and right outside the department, a mother overdosed in the front seat with a five month old baby in the back, and the clinicians job for the next six hours was to care for this child, find resources while they basically tried to revive a child's mom.


[00:19:37.230] - Sarah Abbott

And so that's not jail diversion and that's the evolution. So what's happened is that because of the acumen of the clinicians, because of the right stuff, the type of boundaries, the ability to stay compassionate, to stay in your lane when you're surrounded by law enforcement whose focus is often safety and security, you need to be able to really narrow in and zone in quickly on what's happening. So the ability to rapidly assess people and the confidence to say this is what's happening because there is no learning curve, you can't come in and be like hey it's field training. I'll be ready in four months. Once you hit that department, especially Framingham and others who have been operational. Malborough has been operational for over twelve years, Watertown for ten years. All those departments expect day one that the clinicians are going to be able to pivot to whatever's thrown at them. So, no, not every social worker wants to do this work should be in this role.


[00:20:35.640] - Steve Morreale

Where does it go? Where does this program. Em go. How did it take for how did it take hold, how do you do outreach to try to encourage others to get involved? I'm sure some of the chiefs are speaking about this favorably. But what has the role of advocates been for trying to push this idea forward? We're talking about the funding. You've heard that. And you talk about social workers and going out and sending them on certain calls.


[00:21:00.300] - Steve Morreale

And, of course, the police, I think a police reaction as well. OK, good luck with that. Go out on calls without police and you'll be calling us pretty soon. So how do you how does advocates advocate for the poor pushing the program forward?


[00:21:12.150] - Sarah Abbott

So we have been growing organically for 18 years. And when I say organically, we have never been in a position or wanted to be in a position where we've gone to a police department and told them that they need this. My experience in working and partnering and truly collaborating with law enforcement is that this has to be a true partnership. So law enforcement has typically initiated the inquiry.


[00:21:37.670] - Sarah Abbott

Our greatest strength is the word of mouth of our chiefs, sergeants, officers in the 15 police departments that advocates now has her response programs. So when you combine that with hundreds of police officers who know hundreds of other police officers from the academy, they go to training together. Chiefs meet regularly and task forces and chiefs meetings. And it's been word of mouth. Framingham was the first four I worked in Framingham starting in 2003, several years after I started working there, I was in dispatch and the Marlborough Police Department called Framingham Dispatch and said, hey, do you have some social work results or something?


[00:22:21.330] - Sarah Abbott

We've got a guy that we arrested who is reporting that he is suicidal and we don't have the manpower, as you know, which is required to extract someone from a cell involuntarily, often put them in an ambulance or a cruiser, transport them for an evaluation.


[00:22:38.860] - Sarah Abbott

So could we borrow your clinician? Could she come here and see this guy? So dispatch turned around. I was sitting there at eight o'clock at night. Nice summer's evening. Had plans for a great party, as you know, in law enforcement plans. I mean, nothing. And they said, can you stop the mob on your way home? And I said, sure, I was fascinated by going to another department. I wanted to see how did things it was an opportunity to get behind the scenes, which I love to do, and interview this guy.


[00:23:12.600] - Sarah Abbott

So I stopped over there on the way home and I did an assessment while he was in custody. And I determined that this gentleman was not at high risk of suicide, may, in fact, be reporting these concerns to evade police custody, and that my recommendation was ten minute watches. And they have a system in Marlborough at the time. So put the individual on watch. And sure enough, he maintained himself to a court and they were blown away by this.


[00:23:41.910] - Sarah Abbott

They could not believe that someone would come to their department, go back into the cell block and talk to this guy and make an assessment and have the authority and the ability to give them recommendations and take the liability off them of watching him, worrying about him, as I said, maybe having to use force to transport him.


[00:24:03.810] - Sarah Abbott

All of that was immediately relieved. They had an endorsement from someone of appropriate authority and it was good to go. And after that, the next day, the chief Mark Leonard at the time called our chief at the time and said, how do we get this?


[00:24:18.360] - Sarah Abbott

And we launched in Marlborough in 2008 with foundation funding. And we've been there twelve years and they have currently three full-time people assigned to that program.


[00:24:29.700] - Steve Morreale

So I know that you have done some regionalization, in other words, to approach where a small department can't necessarily afford that and that you share a clinician talk about that so others would understand. Sure, that's a great question. And the regional model came on board in twenty fifteen. So as I mentioned, we were in Framingham then Morpeth and Watertown did the same thing as Brough did, invited us in 2011, 12 and 15.


[00:24:54.690] - Sarah Abbott

Then Chief Davis moved from Framingham to the Ashland Police Department. Ashland is a smaller community, less officers, less calls, but a burgeoning need for mental health support. But he realized that he alone would not qualify for a grant or could not provide sufficient work for a full time clinician. So Chief Davis invited his continuous partners, Qurban Police Policy and police Hopkinton Police to go in with him on a regional adaptation which would share clinician resources in the fall. Continuous tell the clinician would rotate coverage and be in each department rotating, but they would most importantly be available to any of the four towns.


[00:25:37.420] - Sarah Abbott

While they were on duty, regardless of where they were sitting, so this played out that the clinician maybe on a Monday was actually physically present in Ashland. Holliston had a suicidal person on the roof. Ashland The mutual aid agreements, which they already had in place, would transport the clinician across the line. The line more often than not. Take them to the call, hand them off, drop them off the clinician and take care of the call and holliston within the hang onto them or bring them back.


[00:26:03.850] - Sarah Abbott

And my concern was that the relationship would be more difficult to form when covering for departments. And so the coverage, consistent coverage in each department, each day rotating and the operations meetings which happen where all stakeholders come together every month and showed that those relationships stayed strong. Some of the departments only have 15 offices, so you could get to know them pretty quickly. And it worked.


[00:26:31.330] - Sarah Abbott

And we now have launched three additional regional models and for a total of 15 police departments that have correspond to clinicians available in Metro West, that's that's great.


[00:26:42.580] - Steve Morreale

So there's growth and there's hope for sure. A few questions before we begin to wind down. You've been around policing for an awful long time. You've heard the criticisms. What's your take based on your experience about the value of police, the mindset of police and the care and concern of police for their community?


[00:27:00.040] - Sarah Abbott

It's a great question and one obviously that I think a lot about. There are many ways in which I recognize that social work and law enforcement have more in common than difference.


[00:27:10.690] - Sarah Abbott

The first day that I walked into Framingham police before Michael Esposito grabbed me for that call, I noticed that there was a woman who was living in the lobby. I walked by her into dispatch, introduced myself. I said, you know, who's the lady in the lobby? And they said, Oh, that's so-and-so. I'm like, what's the deal? Well, she's homeless right now and it's cold. So she has to leave during the day when the brass are around.


[00:27:36.760] - Sarah Abbott

But at night she sleeps here. And I was stunned by this. And she became someone that I've worked with for years, just lifelong challenges. But that struck me as as an absolute sign that we could do something good, because the role of law enforcement in my eyes is to be guardian, to take care of the well-being and protect the most vulnerable among. And those that don't have resources tend to engage with police more. And some of the experiences, I'll tell you another story that that really impressed me wasn't long into my career in Framingham.


[00:28:13.030] - Sarah Abbott

And we were called to a guy with a knife, pretty common call in cities and some towns across the Commonwealth and beyond. Guy with a knife, not the coal you want to go to. So I'm on the road. I'm in that sector where second on scene. And because of the concern that they had for my well-being and because they didn't know me as well as they do now, I wasn't allowed to go into the park, but they let me stand outside.



So I watched two officers enter the apartment. This was two thousand and three that were maybe five or six Tasers on the whole department at the time.


[00:28:47.500] - Sarah Abbott

And the closest Taser was, which is what would be the preferred use of force if if this knife incident goes south, is across town five to seven minutes away, even though we were flying across town. Right. But still five to seven minutes away, Trimingham is twenty six point two square miles.


[00:29:04.990] - Sarah Abbott

So this guy that I'm with has to hold this gentleman off or down verbally until the Taser arrives.


[00:29:12.940] - Sarah Abbott

Right. Because nobody, in my experience wants to shoot anybody ever. This gentleman was sick, too. He had an enormous amount of rage and his girlfriend had just broke up with him after telling him that the baby wasn't his. So lots and lots of anger, lots and lots of potential for escalation. The officer I was with had been riding with me on and off for maybe four or five months at this point, had seen me deescalate. People had seen how I approached it from the get go.


[00:29:42.790] - Sarah Abbott

So I'm standing outside the apartment. I'm nosy as heck. I'm listening to what's going on in there. And I hear the officer introduce himself to the individual in crisis. My name's Chris. I'm an officer in Framingham. You look really upset what's going on? And that to me was a game changer. Not that officer hadn't done that before. Maybe hadn't done that before, I don't know. But that to me was different. And I heard this officer who was a father talk to this gentleman about how devastating this must be taught the gentleman that he had three knives when we got there, taught two of them out of him.


[00:30:19.900] - Sarah Abbott

And until the officer with the Taser arrived and was able to de-escalate and transport him without injury to the hospital where he was impatient, no charges were filed, no arrests were made, no summons. There was no true crime here because it was. Intercepted and deescalated so well when they all got done, when we were back in the cruise and were driving away, I was like, oh my God, that was unbelievable. I said, I don't think I've ever heard an officer introduce himself in that way.


[00:30:51.030] - Sarah Abbott

It was really effective. And he's like, You fucking think I don't listen to you? I'm sorry.


[00:30:55.010] - Steve Morreale

I think that's reality. Yeah, I'm sure that's what was said.


[00:31:00.690] - Sarah Abbott

He said I've been listening to you do this for months. Just like the first thing I noticed was that you said my name is Sarah and how that humanized the interaction. This is not rocket science. Officers are willing and able to learn skills and but need opportunities to understand them, to learn them, to witness them, to see them be effective and then to internalize them.


[00:31:21.900] - Sarah Abbott

And the department is a different department because they have thousands and thousands and thousands of calls where they've jointly responded and worked in partnership and seen really great outcome.


[00:31:32.520] - Steve Morreale

Well, think about what you must be very proud of, where this program has taken your what you hatched as a child has now become an adult, has taken hold and is and is gainfully employed, which is amazing. What's in the future for Sarah?


[00:31:47.310] - Sarah Abbott

It's a great question. I do feel like all my birds have left the nest and that program is in excellent shape, has institutional knowledge, has a leadership team. There are 15 employees in the advocacy team who who have amazing clinicians with great intelligence and aptitude. And I have strong belief that the program will outlive all of us.


[00:32:08.640] - Sarah Abbott

In my world, I'm pivoting to a broader and larger vision. I would like to see training and program models be developed based on data, based on evidence and taken to the next level. I believe that we have a platform in place with excellent training. Massachusetts has one of the most professional, well-trained department set of departments in the country.


[00:32:33.690] - Sarah Abbott

My experience and I've worked in other places where that's not the case and I see as looking with an acute eye and focus on what works and what do we know works and how do we standardize and institutionalize this. Like you said, this has been slow growing. I've spent 18 years of my career building, nurturing and fostering, replicating this work. It's time to take it to the next level. I'd like to see more work in my future engaged in the training and orientation of teams to work together in training settings.


[00:33:10.650] - Sarah Abbott

I'd like to see evidence-based practices and models take hold and be really clearly defined in Massachusetts and for the country. My experience is that police departments are desperate for help and resources in this regard, and I'd like to be part of the broader picture in envisaging how we can implement the reforms available to us and how we can do that with law enforcement in mind, given that they are the people who we both are implementing these reforms and expected to hear to them.


[00:33:44.040] - Sarah Abbott

So when a well-prepared law enforcement force to respond with a range of opportunities from clinicians to training simulations academy.


[00:33:53.700] - Steve Morreale

So, Sara, one of the things we talked about before we got on, Mike, is that you're considering starting and branching out on your own. What are you trying to do?


[00:34:00.270] - Sarah Abbott

That's right, Steve. Thank you. I am. I'm launching an LLC. Abberton Solutions for Justice and the work of the Abbott Solutions for Justice team will be to spread the news of different models across the world. There are international partners that will be working with our national partners that I hope to engage with more and certainly plenty of work left to do in Massachusetts.


[00:34:27.780] - Sarah Abbott

I am driven to provide law enforcement the best possible tools so that they can do that job effectively, safely, and that everybody gets to go home. That's what we know matters. And I believe that law enforcement are uniquely positioned to deliver excellent outcomes if they have the support, funding and mentorship of other departments who have been engaged with this. So my hope is to spread the work that I've been doing in response and branching out to additional opportunities as they present themselves.


[00:35:01.620] - Steve Morreale

Well, there's no time like the present because this is a major issue. And I think having somebody with the experience that you have can be very beneficial. And the fact that you've been vetted already by police departments and certainly that could be very, very valuable. Sara and I for the audience are engaging with the Garda with the Irish National Police on a similar effort that they are trying to do with their national health service. And Sara and I have been engaged in conversations and you'll hear from Inspector Andrew Lacy soon on this show to tell a little bit about it.


[00:35:34.800] - Steve Morreale

So, Sara, I want to thank you for your time. You're in a. I wish you the best in what you're doing, you know that I'm always here for you, but thank you. Last question. If you had the chance to talk with anybody alive or dead, that is renowned, not necessarily famous. Who might that be?


[00:35:49.180] - Sarah Abbott

Winston Churchill.


[00:35:50.560] - Steve Morreale

Really, is that because you're British


[00:35:52.480] - Sarah Abbott

It seems so obvious. It's not just because I'm British.


[00:35:56.050] - Sarah Abbott

And ironically, I have come to understand and study Winston Churchill in My Lady is and had no real concept of him while I was actually in the U.K., remember, I was a teenager, a young adult. Those were not things I was thinking about in my college years. It was Oasis and Raves and the Happy Mondays and, you know, going to class from time to time. So when I was in the UK, it wasn't as kind of to the UK history.


[00:36:25.270] - Sarah Abbott

I've evolved in my thinking and learning and studying leadership, which I know this podcast is largely focused on. I've been exploring and understanding great leaders and church. Some of the best speeches, some of the most rallying cries that are inherently British but incredibly strong have come from him. And he had vision and frankly, the gravitas to be sworn into office the day after Poland was invaded, I believe so. Lots to learn from him that can apply to current leadership strategies.


[00:36:59.860] - Sarah Abbott

And what he taught me was to be bold. And I'd love to hear more about how he thinks I'm doing and what advice he can give me for the future.


[00:37:07.930] - Steve Morreale

That's terrific. You've been listening to Sarah Abbott talk to Sarah Abbott from Massachusetts Laselle College and Advocates talking about mental health, mental health intervention and jail diversion programs. Sarah, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate all that you could share with us.


[00:37:23.890] - Sarah Abbott

Thank you for your time, Steve, and thank you for inviting me here today. Thanks. And make sure you listen to Future podcast episodes on The CopDoc Podcast.


[00:37:34.330] - The CopDoc Podcast 

Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.