Police and Social Work Collaboration as a Necessity

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

With national calls for police reform, how can change begin?

A greater need for de-escalation practices and decreased victim trauma invokes necessary action to be taken across the country.

For the past sixteen years, Family Service of RI’s Providence Police Go Team has paired police officers with social workers for “ride-alongs” for calls throughout the workday. The goal of the team is to promote collaboration between law enforcement and social workers and trauma care to decrease victim stress during and beyond the call for police intervention.

According to Carla Cuellar, a project manager for the Go Team, “The program is modelled to reduce the effect of trauma and educate on criminal justice.”

The resources provided by the Family Service of Rhode Island social workers and coordinators connect trauma victims with various physical, mental, and social wellbeing experts to create a pathway for victim rehabilitation after a traumatic event such as watching a loved one be arrested. Collaborations with hospitals and the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families also aid in helping younger victims in households where the parent or guardians are the reason for the call. During the call, the social worker establishes a connection with any minors and victims in the household and removes them from the scene where the police officers are working, reducing the initial trauma for the children. After the initial event, the social worker will follow up and extend any relevant resources to the victim and their guardian going forward.

The Go Team centers around collaboration and mutual respect. Constant communication between the officers and social workers allows for each to excel in their roles with the support of the team. During this time of social unrest, the Go Team is an exemplary step in the right direction, bringing de-escalation and mental health expertise in collaboration with police officers. Regular satisfaction surveys and public awards have shown the public attitude of Providence police improving since the launch of the Go Team in 2004.

“We think this type of supportive program can help other communities collaborate with law enforcement to help victims get support,” notes Candace Johndrow, a director for FSRI’s Trauma Loss & Children Services.

Written by:

Kyle Ginsberg