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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Social Workers and Police

We have been working with St. Louis County Social Services over the last year to improve our response to those in mental crisis.  Since 2007 our mental illness related calls have risen by more that 35%.  Two of our three homicides last year involved those with serious mental illness and an officer involved shooting involved a subject in crisis threatening with a knife.  Too often we are seeing individuals in suddenly acute mental crisis slip through the cracks and police are left dealing with them as the after hours social workers.  Unfortunately, a result of the lack of resources in this area, mentally ill are often cited or arrested and are brought to the county jail.  With proper treatment and care, these individuals would not be spending time in jail.  As I've said before, our jails are our mental hospitals of the past.       

St. Louis County board members will be considering a proposal next week to fund an embedded social worker to operate in the Duluth police department.  This position will review mental illness related police calls and ensure everything is being done quickly and efficiently to help those in crisis.  They will work hand in hand with our staff to swiftly address those in need of care for their illness. 

I believe this effort will help us reduce incarceration rates of those suffering from mental illness, reduce the amount of court resources involved in mental illness, reduce police time spent on mental illness related calls and help those who are in crisis.

We will continue our efforts related to mental health court, outreach and community intervention group and are excited about the prospects of having an embedded social worker.

Here is story on this effort by channel 21.  http://www.fox21online.com/news/local-news/duluth-police-to-add-social-worker-to-force/31347794

Friday, February 6, 2015

Over the last eight years, members of our department have worked to recruit and build citizen volunteers. Demands on police services continue to climb and our many community volunteers help us with everything from answering phones to traffic control at special events
While I often share stories about the good work our officers do in neighborhoods, I want to highlight two individuals who have had a tremendous impact on policing efforts. Last week, we recognized two of our most active citizen volunteers, Pam Kleinschmidt and Jerry Lawson.

Pam, to whom we fondly refer as the mayor of Lincoln Park, regularly staffs our Lincoln Park office and West Duluth Station, answering phones and assisting with walk-in traffic. She has been instrumental in helping us build relationships with residents and businesses in Lincoln Park. She organizes monthly meetings for citizens and makes sure their concerns are addressed.
Pam goes out of her way at her own expense, taking phone calls from concerned citizens at all hours of the day and night. She spends many hours each week keeping an eye on problem areas in her neighborhood and works with us to develop solutions.

Several years ago, we needed help managing seized cars used to commit crimes. Demands were pulling our staff in many different directions. We needed a mechanic, an accountant and a customer service representative. We were fortunate enough to find a multitalented individual, Jerry Lawson, who was able to fill all those needs. Jerry has been instrumental in the day operation of our vehicle impound lot and we truly could not manage it without him.
There isn't a job Jerry can't do. Additionally, he helped us establish the "Vial of Life" program, which provides medical information to first responders. He also helped expand and improve our citizen patrol program.

I was honored to present Jerry and Pam with Police Chief's Citizen Partnership Awards. I am grateful for all they do for our community and police department.