Connor Pollick, senior at Eastern Connecticut State University, is an intern with the Willimantic Police Department. He accompanies agents, answers calls, examines documents and makes follow-up visits.
But Pollick is not a criminal justice intern. He is studying social work.
“We have different skills from them and we can help people in different ways,” Pollick said.
ECSU and Willimantic Police Department team up for a new Social work and law enforcement (SWLE) project. The project pairs interns with police services, training social workers and police to work together.
“Now is certainly the time to have a meaningful conversation about how these two areas can be stronger together than they could possibly be,” said Police Lt. Willimantic Matthew Solak, co-director of the SWLE project.
Dr Isabel Logan is leading the program alongside Solak. Logan is a professor at Eastern and a licensed clinical social worker. She believes that the SWLE project is the first specialized training program of its kind in the country.
“We have to understand that not everyone can jump into these roles. There is a lot more than just jumping in,” Logan said. “We need to make sure that we prepare social workers for this emerging area and that is the scope of this project.”
The project was launched shortly after state lawmakers passed the police liability law. Section 18 of the new law requires police departments to consider the impact of the use of social workers on the service.
“We can help people address their concerns and needs in a way that keeps them out of the criminal justice system,” Logan said. “Because we sure don’t want people in the criminal justice system who don’t need to be there.”
Interns respond to non-violent calls that deal with mental health, homelessness, or other issues that may not require a uniformed police officer.
“People call the police because we’re the only ones answering the phone 24 hours a day. We can secure the place, make sure everyone is okay, and get people to the hospital if that’s where they are. they have to be, but it’s as long-term follow-up treatment as anyone in the social work field is best suited to do, ”Solak said.
Pollick said during his internship that he helped connect people in the community with resources that can help them.
“Having that kind of extra bridge between the agents and the community, I think it’s never a bad thing,” Pollick said.
Since the start of the program last year, it has grown. The SWLE project organized a police social work academy in September. They are currently training students in four Connecticut police departments. The Willimantic, Norwich, Milford and Stamford Police Departments all have social work interns.
“I hope we start to make a small change and that students get the educational experience they need and that I prepare social workers to work for social justice and to be able to meet the needs of the community. . in a very ethical and professional manner, ”said Logan.