Alumni Spotlight: Commander Dan Grispino

SPSCO Class #535

 shpd-commander-dan-grispino.jpgJan. 31, 2024 – NUCPS recently spoke with Commander Daniel Grispino of the Shaker Heights (OH) Police Department. Since graduating from School of Police Staff & Command Online Class #535, Grispino has initiated and led a successful effort to secure a $400,000 grant for the department's expansion of its Mental Health Unit to include its neighboring communities of Cleveland Heights, University Heights, South Euclid, and Richmond Heights. Together these five communities have a population of 110,000. A Shaker Heights press release noted that the grant will fund “two licensed mental health professionals and two peer supports, who, along with the current Shaker Heights social worker, will cover all five partner communities. In addition, a licensed mental health professional will be assigned to the joint dispatch center.” According to Grispino, the federal award is the only grant of its kind awarded in Ohio and one of a few nationally. 

“I told my chief that it never would have happened if it weren’t for the training that I received at NUCPS, where I learned where to locate such grants and then in turn how to write them. This was my first time writing a grant, and I was able to collaborate in a short amount of time with surrounding agencies. It's really opened so much for not only our community but the five total communities that are involved in this,” said the commander.

“We have an opportunity to kind of reimagine how we deliver services,” said Grispino. He recalled that the agency was initially planning to “beef up our response system that we had here in Shaker Heights by maybe adding one more clinician and maybe one peer support professional. Then we got this bigger idea. We have all these regional teams in the area: we have a regional SWAT team; we have a regional crisis intervention team; a regional accident investigative team. . .. Why don't we work towards a regional mental health response model? It's no different than sharing these other resources. A lot of these other smaller communities don't have the funding like Shaker Heights does.” Grispino is excited about the possibilities of their expanded program. “I think it’s something that can be replicated throughout Ohio and the U.S. We're kind of laying this framework through the staffing and training. And if asked, we're going to be able to go and present how to replicate our model.”

“We are going to have a clinician stationed at our regional dispatch center,” Grispino said as he explained the unit's structure. The LCSW will be trained to triage calls and decide whether they need police response in addition to mental health or if it is a call to which the Mental Health Response Unit can be dispatched alone. He continues to explain that “In our community we have had repeat callers experiencing mental health episodes. Our program is able to provide follow up care, and these folks are provided the resources they need. The result is that law enforcement no longer receives those repeat calls with no real solution for the police officer to provide.”

The expanded program will also alleviate unnecessary emergency room visits. Grispino noted that in the past, officers frequently had to transport people – often in altered mental states – to the hospital, where they simply were released back home. “They’re not really getting the type of treatment they need,” said Grispino. “Someone's being transported when a mental health professional may have been able to work through some things. Now we send the [mental health] team, and they're able to work it out because they're more familiar with the resources that are available through the community and in the county.”

When asked how the grant came to be, Grispino said that at his SPSCO graduation, the class was “challenged to bring back what we learned to our agency and look for ways to make an impact.” While reviewing information that he obtained during SPSC, he spotted the federal grant for crisis intervention teams – but the grant deadline was imminent. “We only had 2-1/2 to 3 weeks to put this proposal together from start to finish. Our agency’s clinician and I worked some long, long hours, including weekends, to put it all together. I did the grant writing, worked with researchers at [our local] university, and then reached out to the other communities.”

Grispino predicts that mental health response will be a big part of best practices in law enforcement as the industry moves forward. He said that Shaker Heights Police Department is “excited to hopefully be a big part of that. . . . We wouldn’t be able to do what we're doing now without the grant, and it's getting attention throughout the state. I’ve been told that this will be looked at as a model Mental Health Unit program for Ohio.”

“After we start running this program, we will be able to present the numbers to show that it works.” Grispino believes that many other communities are interested in similar programs but are watching from the sidelines. He feels that once these communities see the Shaker Heights program in action for a couple of years and view the data, they will be more confident about dedicating funds to a program of their own.

A native Ohioan, Grispino has been a sworn officer for 21 years, 18 of those with Shaker Heights Police Department. He first served short stints at Cleveland State University and rural Chardon (OH) Police Department before arriving in Shaker Heights. He was “drawn to Shaker Heights because of the opportunities of the department. There are a lot of units for a suburb. When I was a younger officer, it was known as a busy department with opportunities.” Shaker Heights Police Department is also a CALEA-certified department, which made an impression on Grispino, who earned his bachelor’s degree in criminology and sociology from Cleveland State University and his master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Tiffin University. His advice to officers fresh from the academy is to always remember why they went into law enforcement, especially when times get tough. “Remain resilient and remember that the majority of the community supports you even though oftentimes it may not seem like it. What we do is important. You have to remember that there are people out there that are counting on us, and they need us.”

“Early on in my career I was focused on good arrests. As I've evolved in policing and think about really making an impact in the community, [the grant] is something that I can look back on when I retire, and long after I'm gone, that will still have an impact on the community. To me, it is a pretty powerful feeling that I've had a small hand in something that impacts someone somewhere who I don't even know. Hopefully, this service is really going to make a difference in their lives. And that to me, that's just a great feeling,” concluded Grispino.

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