GREAT BARRINGTON — The town's Police Department has appointed four people and a comfort dog to a Community Outreach Team that will serve as a liaison with community groups and underrepresented residents.
The team will focus on identifying issues around youths and young adults, homelessness, aging, race and ethnicity, according to a news release. Team members also hope to partner with people whose voices might have been underrepresented.
The five members are officers Andres Huertas, Olivia Cobb, Kris Balestro and his comfort dog Beko, as well Great Barrington Police Department Executive Assistant Cara Becker.
“This team’s emphasis is building trust, understanding, and transparency through two-way conversations so we can learn from each other, as education is our top priority," Police Chief Paul Storti said in the release. "We hope this will bring a better mutual connection between our police and our community.”
The department already has broadened its options for handling emergencies or calls involving addiction and mental health challenges. A part-time mental health professional is on staff, and last year the department added Beko to assist on calls involving someone in a stressful encounter.
The department also added "recovery coaches" to its community resources this month.
For more information about the Community Outreach Team, call 413-528-0306.