Newport News, Va. (WVEC) -- Sheriff Gabe Morgan has served 12 years as Newport News Sheriff. He begins his 4th term focusing on recruitment, retention and mental illness.
Morgan said he is pushing for services for people in his jail who struggle with mental illness.
“The jails and correctional facilities in Virginia are the largest repositories of people with mental illness,” said Morgan.
He co-chairs Gov. Ralph Northam’s mental health policy council. He also backs Crisis Intervention Training to help personally identify and deal with people suffering from mental illnesses.
“We’ve ensured that the police department their training, the magistrates are training and the paramedics are training,” said Morgan.
Morgan said his commitment to focusing on mental illness falls under a broader push to identify people’s underlying issued that resulted in them being behind bars. Part of which includes improving the jail’s GED and re-entry programs.
“The arrest is systematic of an underlying issue. For example, someone will be released and she’ll return to doing what she was doing before because we never addressed the issue. It’s always about how do I best prepare them to re-entry and take their rightful place as a contributing citizen,” said Morgan.
Another area of Morgan’s focus is recruitment. He said recruiting people for a career in law enforcement continues to be tough across the region.
“Every agency in the Hampton Roads area has high vacancies,” said Morgan.
The Sheriff’s office is committed to building better relationships with youth in the community through mentorship programs. Sheriff Morgan also pushed for high school and college students interested in a career in law enforcement to apply for the Virginia Sheriff’s Institute scholarship.
Since 2014, the Virginia Sheriff’s Institute scholarship program has awarded 8 $1000 scholarships to Newport News students. The deadline for students to apply is May 1st. Newport News students need to schedule an appointment to meet with Sheriff Morgan as a requirement for applying.
“You do this because it needs to be done and you have a love for your community. It’s so important to get people who care to serve our community,” said Morgan.