Counseling and Crisis Response Support
Police social workers complement the efforts of law enforcement officers, expanding the services provided by local police and sheriff’s departments. According to ZipRecruiter, they “provide counseling and crisis response support for community members who are referred by police officers.” They can be employed by various law enforcement organizations or by social service agencies that partner with law enforcement.
Crisis social work is often challenging and risky, although it’s valuable and potentially very rewarding as well. In addition to providing support for domestic violence and substance abuse victims, police social workers collaborate with first-responders to negotiate with distressed individuals. They counsel those who are grieving for lost loved ones and develop programs for at-risk youth. To facilitate their own efforts, they also provide counseling to police officers and their families, as well as training programs to address:
- Stress management
- Mental illness
- Substance abuse
- Domestic violence
- Child abuse
A lot can happen in just one shift doing this type of social work. Unpredictable events are a common occurrence. The intense demands of the job are enough to test anyone’s mettle. Nonetheless, your role as a police social worker would be to act as a stabilizing force in the midst of what are often chaotic and dangerous situations. This job calls for poise and resilience that characterize remarkably few people — that’s why there’s such a great need for them.
A Bridge to Essential Resources
The police social worker's function as a civilian crisis responder places them in a unique position — much like a bridge to vital resources that people could desperately need. People seeking help may require counseling beyond a police officer’s abilities, and so would potentially need referrals for treatment. Children and other vulnerable people may respond differently to unarmed social workers than to police officers, so providing police social workers creates additional essential resources to help cover gaps in the system.
These workers effectively enhance the overall breadth of services provided by law enforcement and crisis response officials. They often make follow-up calls that police officers can’t commit to as they’re typically responding to high-priority dispatches. Plus, they help connect people to the services and available resources they need.
It would be difficult to overstate the value these workers provide to their clients, the agencies they work with, and the communities they serve.
Someone To Talk To
Police social workers provide vital long-term contacts to crime victims, people suffering from mental illness, and those who struggle with substance abuse or homelessness. But the job isn’t always so grave.
There are times when people simply want to be heard by an empathetic listener. “Sometimes, it’s just a friendly ear,” said Emily Constantino of the Willimantic Police Department in Connecticut, a participant in the Social Work and Law Enforcement (SWLE) Project.
A partnership between Eastern Connecticut State University’s Social Work Program and the Willimantic Police Department gave rise to the SWLE Project. Among the goals of the project are to:
- “Bridge the divide between community and police”
- “Address mental health needs”
- “Use research, training, supervision, and consulting to support social work and law enforcement partnerships”
- “Employ evidence-based interventions, evaluate practice, and advocate for policy implementation”
Across the country, police have warned that emergency calls from "emotionally disturbed persons" have seen a marked increase in recent years. Police social workers connect people in distress with the support they need to help them through their difficult times. According to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, “Programs like the SWLE Project can go a long way toward preventing the punishment of young people who experience mental health or behavioral challenges by connecting them with a strong support network.”