Are Social Workers Coming To Police Work In Atlantic County, NJ?
NEWS & OPINION - EDITORIAL COMMENTARY
The term is Police Social Worker or PSW.
Even prior to the radical “Defund The Police” era debacle, the concept of a PSW has been both explored and implemented in various states around the country for more than a decade.
Several Atlantic County, New Jersey Police Departments are presently exploring the implementation of PSWs.
There are various models. Some call for a PSW to ride along on every Police call. Some departments have a PSW ride-along on specific Police calls involving distraught persons, or, other suspected mental illnesses.
The philosophy is that a clinical approach can keep many people from being brought into the justice system unnecessarily.
This is a very tough “sell” for police officers. Having a civilian social worker ride along (brought) into their profession is highly controversial and they don’t like it.
Much like a Doctor or other medical professional would not like the equivalent of a citizen observer (trying to contribute) in the operating room while they are performing surgeries or procedures on patients.
We interviewed 10 current/retired police officers in the preparation of this commentary.
Not one of them was in favor of going to a potentially violent and dangerous domestic police call with a PSW in tow.
They consider it unwise and unsafe, as these types of police calls can go sideways at any moment.
A social worker may feel as though they are making great progress in de-escalating a situation, only to see weapons and violence unleashed in a split second.
It is important to note that the PSW is an unarmed civilian.
Police Officers and superior officers that we interviewed, can readily see a PSW being brought-in after a situation has been properly addressed first at the police department level.
If a clinician decides that mental illness was involved, it can ultimately be determined that a person, under these circumstances can be helped through a different process versus the justice system.
For example, Connecticut has a crisis intervention program. It was part of a major statewide police reform bill that requires local police departments to "evaluate the feasibility and potential impact of using social workers to respond to calls for assistance (either remotely or in-person) or go with a police officer on calls where a social worker's experience and training could provide help,” quoted directly from the report.
A report, detailing the results of this Connecticut-based program will be released at a later date.
Some (mostly major) cities have gone to the extreme and want to replace police officers with social workers. This is absurd and beyond dangerous and all normal people know that it would lead to a dramatic rise in all forms of crime; petty, violent, and otherwise.
Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor Tim Keller implemented a plan to create a civilian department to handle certain “police” calls.
This is a radical and dangerous philosophy. The civilian-led department is responsible for 911 calls, specifically involving issues involving people who are intoxicated, homeless, on drugs, or in a mental health crisis.
Rather than police responding to these calls, Keller proposed that this new civilian agency responds.
Instead of police handling these calls, they have social workers, housing counselors, and violence prevention specialists directly respond.
“We've placed more and more issues on the plates of officers who are not trained ... to be a social worker, or to be an addiction counselor … when they're just answering a call," Keller said. "We should have trained professionals do this, instead of folks with a gun and a badge,” said Keller.
The problem is, the potentially dangerous calls the civilians will be responding to, involve people who may have weapons in their possession.
Keller is dangerously misguided in his radical approach. Social Workers and all of the wonderful mental health professionals serve such a vital role in American society.
However, just like you will never go to a radio talk show host for brain surgery It is reckless, dangerous, and unprofessional to send a social worker on a police call.
After reviewing a number of pilot programs around the country; interviewing police officers both present and past it is so obvious that a social worker can not replace a police officer.
That's not an insult to all social workers and mental healthcare professionals.
Police Officers possess a unique skill set that requires training and the ability to handle potentially violent and complex public safety situations that regularly unfold during police work.
The Clinicians also possess a unique and important skill set. They are not transferable, yet they can effectively support law enforcement, at the right time.
SOURCES: Various Police Officer local interviews (Atlantic City & Egg Harbor Township), Route-Fifty.com & CtMirror.org.
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