Friday, January 5, 2018

The impact of a social worker partnering with police

There are a lot of people dealing with issues in Kansas City that are frankly not the job of police to address: family problems, poverty, addiction and more. But it is those very issues that create crime problems in our community.

That’s why KCPD took a leadership role in embedding a social worker in one of our inner-city patrol divisions. It’s a unique partnership, and it’s changing people’s lives in a way that enhances public safety. She started in December 2016, and after a year on the job, the impact social worker Gina English is making continues to amaze me.

Lately, she’s taken it upon herself to volunteer and mentor youth incarcerated at the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC). She’s been working to let the young inmates there know that there is support available for them when they get out to do something different with their lives. Since she is working on behalf of KCPD, she’s also planting the seeds of positive relationships between these young people and law enforcement.

Gina was out shopping last week when she ran into one of the young men she’d spoken with at the JJC. He had been released and was working at a retail store. After speaking with him, Gina learned it was one of two jobs he had. He also no longer was attending an alternative school because he’d caught up on all of his work. Now in a regular high school, he’s making all A’s and B’s. This was a young man who had violated the law and was incarcerated, but now he is well on his way to being a productive member of society. After she spoke with him, Gina talked to his manager at the store. She told the manager that the teen was committed to his future, and that she’d made a great decision to take a chance on hiring him.

When a family came into the Central Patrol station this week to inquire about a driver’s license issue, Gina saw their 6-year-old boy didn’t have a coat. Although the family’s problem probably would best have been addressed at the Department of Motor Vehicles, one of our officers called down to Jefferson City to help make inquiries for them. While he was doing so (Gina had directed him to stall the family a bit), Gina ran out and obtained a coat for the boy. They left the station with their questions answered and a new coat, and the whole family had a new appreciation and trust for police.

Gina also got three people into substance treatment last week. As always, she is humble. She told me, “I just take advantage of what’s already available in the community and make connections for them. And how great is it that this help is coming from the place of law enforcement?”

That is just some of what one person did in one week in one area of the city (Central Patrol Division). Imagine what more social workers embedded with law enforcement across the city could do. We are working on funding that vision at each patrol division to create even stronger partnerships between social workers, police department members – especially community interaction officers - and our community. We are willing to forge nontraditional partnerships that work to decrease crime in our city. People who don’t have their basic needs met will always look for alternative means. The KCPD is striving to assist with those alternative means, as opposed to criminal means.

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