With the current climate of policing in the United States, many are calling for police forces to be defunded and to have officers replaced with social workers. While social work and community outreach are important parts of every police department, this arrangement isn’t realistic. Rather, to better serve the needs of our communities, police crisis clinicians and law enforcement officers need to be able to work together. 

Unmet Needs

In the current climate, it’s uncommon for police departments to regularly integrate outside services into their everyday activities. Mental health professionals and social workers are usually only called in under particular circumstances, but evidence suggests that shifting toward this model might be much more beneficial to communities than we could ever realize. 

Currently, most residents must rely on the police service for needs that they were never trained to handle, particularly in the field of mental health and social services. Having trained professionals more effectively integrated into policing can ensure that these gaps are filled, and these needs get met in more constructive ways.

Integrating Social Services Into Police Departments

Handling situations collaboratively between different professionals doesn’t just benefit the community at large – it’s also a huge internal benefit for police departments. It takes the pressure off of officers to handle situations that they aren’t prepared or trained for and ensure that they’re properly treated for the stress and trauma that comes with their job. Healthier police officers are better equipped to help our communities as their oath requires – isn’t that a win for everyone?

While many departments are hesitant to restructure their services with this approach, there’s real scientific evidence emerging that supports the integration of mental health services and social work into policing as permanent fixtures. With the current climate of tension and mistrust, it’s imperative that the country’s police forces realize that they need all the help they can get.