Cop and Social Worker: Why officer loves working with the mental health team

Local News

OREM, Utah (ABC4 News) Part Law Enforcer – Part Social Worker. That’s one way Sergeant Jeremy Jamison describes his job with the Orem Police Department. In this week’s Behind the Badge – Don Hudson finds out how he is serving and protecting and who he’s serving and protecting.

Sgt. Jeremy Johnson is checking in with an Orem man he’s been helping work through some issues. Jamison: “Tell me what’s been going on the last couple of weeks?”
Orem Man: “I stopped drinking. I’m a back to normal.”

Sgt. Jamison works in the Orem Police Mental Health Response Team. It’s a unit that consists of just him and Mental Health Advocate Sarah Christenson.

Sgt. Jamison says “I think it takes a unique personality, an individual that understands empathy. And not just understands it, but also internalizes it – where they can look at someone and look past the things that they’ve done. And look at them as an individual and say what can I do to help them today.”

And that’s the approach he uses as he responds to people and crimes involving mental health issues.

“I will make sure you are treated with respect and make sure the process is as smooth as can be for you.” 

The 40-year-old lawman has been part of the unit for about two years. He says it’s a job he almost passed up.

“I went in literally the last hour talked to Chief Jackson. Said hey, the mental health position – just so you know I’m interested.”

Sgt. Jamison says he never even thought about mental health work when he joined the force, but he says its a perfect fit.

“You can come talk to me. I will work with you. I will help you, but if you do something stupid – realize – I am going to hold you accountable.” 

Being in this position – even working in law enforcement at all – almost didn’t happen – not once, but twice.

“I’ve always had a passion to get into law enforcement – it’s just always been an interest.”  

However, Jamison decided it wasn’t for him.

“I got into sales and started making really good money and decided I don’t want anybody to tell me where I’m going to go.” But after 15 years of sales, he says he couldn’t shake the feeling to look into law enforcement.

“I was getting at an age if I was going to do it, I needed to do it.”  

So, he signed up for the police academy – only to change his mind just two days into the training.

“I was like ‘you know what’ – Nah, I don’t need to do this.’ I was going to quit. I literally was going to quit. I was going to go in and tell the commander I was going to quit.”

But before he could do that, the commander called him into his office. And that higher rank and a higher authority sealed the deal.

“He pulled me out of class…and he said ‘Hey, I want you to be the class leader.'” I took it as a sign from a higher being – God – that this is the position I want you to be in. So, that’s why I stuck it through.”  

Less money. More work. But a lot of job satisfaction.

“Little things can make a huge difference – not only to that individual but also to the perception that they probably have of law enforcement. You really can make a difference. That’s what gets me going every day is that I truly am making a difference.” 

Sgt. Jamison decided to get into law enforcement when he was 33 years old. 
He says some of his goals as a minority officer included helping other minorities and helping to change the stigma some people have about the police.

He says “Changing the stigma of police work. Changing the stigma of being heavy-handed – that was on my radar.” He says using words, like he had done in sales for so many years also helped him.

“Communication. Use my sales skills. Use my sales skills to de-escalate individuals. So, its more of compliance – because of that relationship, not because you’re being told to do it.”  
    
He also talked about losing weight when he was getting into law enforcement. He says he weighed about 240 pounds during training and then worked on getting into shape and being healthier and dropped to about 200 pounds. He says his usual weight is now about 215. 

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