San Antonio Officers ‘Ernie And Joe’ Are Changing The Way Police Respond To Mental Health Calls

An HBO documentary profiles two officers in the San Antonio Police Department’s mental health unit.

By Laura RiceNovember 28, 2019 10:00 am,

An estimated 80% to 85% of all calls to the police have an emotional crisis component. In San Antonio, officers focus on those kinds of situations in ways other police departments don’t.

Jennifer McShane’s documentary, “Ernie & Joe,” airing on HBO, profiles two officers who are members of San Antonio Police Department’s mental health unit.

“One is a 22-year veteran. One is 10 years younger, and he is a [military] veteran,” McShane says. “And he has had his own mental health struggles.”

McShane says despite typical big-city struggles with policing, San Antonio is working to integrate mental health services and law enforcement response.

“That’s the secret sauce to the success,” McShane says.

The officers McShane profiles know they aren’t mental health professionals. But acknowledging that fact has helped them be effective in their work.

“People around the country don’t always think of Texas in terms of innovation, or officers thinking the way they think,” McShane says.

The officers’ work has gotten the attention of legislators from other states, who come to San Antonio to observe and learn.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.