PETERSBURG, Virginia (WRIC) – Police reform has become a hot topic across the country, especially after the unrest and protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd.
To address this, some Virginia police departments are hiring more people. However, these new employees are not just officers.
The St. Petersburg Police Bureau, the Newport News Police Department and the Fredericksburg Police Department have added social workers to their forces in 2021.
The goal is to change the way officers respond to emergency calls and better serve society.
Last summer, Genevieve Lohr worked at the St. Petersburg Police Department.
She answers dispatch calls with officers or sometimes sticks to calls after officers leave the scene.
“It allows them to look at things from a completely different perspective,” she said.
It offers support to families and individuals and links them to resources that address issues such as housing, mental health and violent crime.
“We have a city that has a high level of injuries; trauma to the community, trauma to generations, ”she said.
St. Petersburg Police Chief Travis Christian said he was considering adding a social worker to the team, so there won’t be as many repeat calls to the ambulance service.
“Many times our officers respond to calls and don’t always have the experience or don’t always have the resources or don’t even have the time to do it the next day.”
That’s where Lor comes in.
She entered the bureau last summer. From then until December 2021, it received 618 recommendations, contacts or services and served 241 people.
“My role is that I know how to listen and I can collaborate with people with available resources,” she said. “I also understand trauma and understand what happens to people that can lead to certain behaviors. I can look at it through a different prism. “
Lor hopes that this position will have a lasting impact on the St. Petersburg community.
“Social work and law enforcement is a perfect marriage, because everything a policeman does, I don’t do, and everything I do, they don’t do,” she said.
Chief Christian said he hopes to hire a few more social workers in the office soon. He wants to create a whole unit for social workers, with at least one social worker who will deal with minors.
“As we move forward over the years, social workers will become an additional component of any department,” he said. “I’m thrilled with what he’s done for our city here and what he’ll do next.”
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