BRIDGEWATER – Building on an idea from Mayor Matthew Moench, Somerset County has launched a pilot program in this township with the aim of identifying potential crisis situations and residents at risk, and then offering the support needed to discourage escalation to the point of police intervention or arrest.
County commissioner director Shanel Robinson said the Community Police Alliance is an example of government working for the people and hopes it will be the spark plug for similar approaches in neighboring towns.
Licensed social worker Dameon Stackhouse has been hired by Somerset County as the program coordinator and, according to a county statement, reports to her social services department while working closely with Bridgewater Police.
This fieldwork, according to Robinson, will allow the coordinator to observe how the police department’s familiarity with its residents can elicit appropriate responses to certain scenarios.
“You understand these families who are in crisis. You get calls, perhaps, more frequently than other calls in the community. So some of these situations may not require incarceration or arrest,” he said. said Robinson.
As currently defined, the role of the Community Policing Alliance Coordinator is to follow police recommendations and then direct individuals or families to the best path to resolution.
Robinson said Stackhouse’s involvement amplifies services already available to residents in crisis, but they may not be familiar with.
He is expected to discuss the program with county and city officials at next week’s Council of Commissioners meeting.
“We definitely want to bring this to the fore with the public because it’s already been approved and the person is out there in the community,” Robinson said. “What better way to provide a service to the community, which we already offer, than to put someone in the position to identify, then follow and follow an individual or families.”
Rather than involving the authorities, Robinson mentioned the Bridgewater Community Health and Welfare Center as an alternative outcome that could be achieved through the pilot program.
“Instead of arresting them, incarcerating them and being released and then going through the same iteration, they may need to be referred, for example, to Richard Hall or other services for help that they need, ”she said.
The stresses of life, from anger management to parenting issues to food insecurity, can break anyone, Robinson said. And they can be exacerbated by drug addiction, mental illness, or an environment of domestic violence.
But if the Community Police Alliance is successful, it could promote mediations that are less controversial and with much less serious consequences for everyone involved.
Patrick Lavery is the anchor for the New Jersey 101.5 afternoon news. Follow it on Twitter @ plavery1015 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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