NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — When Malvina Dye became a police officer in Lebanon, she made history in the town as the first Black female patrol officer there, but the role she is most proud of came more than 20 years later.

Ms. Vee, as she is known among her colleagues, says being able to go on patrol in Nashville with Metro police and respond to crisis mental health situations as a co-response counselor with the Mental Health Collaborative through the “Partners in Care” program.

“It’s helping without handcuffs,” she said. “It has been a huge blessing for my life.”

Vee says she was studying to get her license in social work while also working as an officer and feels like she found a perfect job for her as she works to keep people with mental illness out of the criminal justice system.

“I want and need for people to trust who I am and what my heart’s intent is when I approach them and when I come into contact with them. I want them to know I am not at all trying at all to be a harm or danger to them, but I am solely there for their help to get them what they need,” she said.

In August, her years of experience and training were tested when a man she was only vaguely familiar with through her interactions with people experiencing homeless around Nashville started threatening to hurt people with a knife, also saying that he wanted to jump over the railing at Riverfront Park.

Vee says while the railing isn’t far from the river, she didn’t know whether he could swim or how much danger he could get into.

“I shared with him my nervousness of him being on the edge of a place that was such a dangerous place and that I was not able to swim and I couldn’t help him if he jumped over, but you could still tell he was experiencing a very serious crisis,” she recalled.

Vee says she was able to convince the man to throw the knife into the river, get away from the railing and empty his pockets without any incident.

“It’s best to help them exactly where they are,” she said.

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She says her team was able to help this man get treatment and he didn’t end up spending time behind bars for the incident.

“To give some form of life back to them. It takes an education. It takes experience,” she said.

Currently, this program is in three of eight precincts, North, Central and Hermitage, but the Partners in Care program manager says they will expand to the South Precinct in November and continue expanding every six months afterward.

“We are growing a new program. We are building the infrastructure and it takes a unique person to do this unique work,” program manager Michael Randolph said. “We are looking for good people with good hearts to do good work.”

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Randolph says he hopes to find more people like Vee who will respond to crises with care.