Harker Heights Police, one of the agencies near the sleepy little burg where I work, is asking for a department social worker in their upcoming budget according to this story over at the Killeen Daily Herald.
"The goal and the motivation behind it was to try and find a methodology to provide social services to people in need of a quicker, more effective way," said HHPD Chief Mike Gentry.
During a City Council workshop last week, Gentry said the new position would be part of a Healthy Homes Project and work with domestic violence agencies, such as Aware Central Texas as well as the Central Texas Family Violence Task Force.
"The plan is to implement a very innovative concept — to hire a trained social worker within the police department to link the other sources together and try to break the cycle of (violence)," Gentry said. "We want to close the gap between the people who need the services and people who provide them."
While every good street cop is part social worker, this is one of the first times I have seen a police department actually plan to hire a real live social worker. I think the plan is innovative and could pay off in the long run.
The cost should be reasonable as most social workers get paid a pittance considering the amount of schooling that they must have. My only concern is that social work is a bit "touchy feely" in many people's eyes and may be a bit hard to explain to folks who want their hard earned tax dollars to pay for "locking people up and throwing away the key".
However, if a social worker can intervene and get people plugged in to the right social services, that may reduce the number of repeat police calls to deal with situations of domestic violence, mental health issues, child abuse, and the homeless. That should leave officers with more time to deal with real criminals and less time playing at social worker.
What kind of innovative, out of the box thinking have you used to deal with the problems your department faces? Is there a problem that such an innovative approach might solve?