Police encounters with mentally ill people can have deadly consequences: according to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, people suffering from untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in interactions with law enforcement. Earlier this month in Utah, a 13-year-old boy with autism was shot several times by police after his mother dialed 911 to request help as her son was experiencing a mental breakdown.

In Alexandria two social workers are now on the police department’s payroll. But while working for the police, they are not cops: they do not have arresting powers and they do not carry weapons. They ride in a Ford Focus instead of a police cruiser. They wear polo shirts, not police uniforms, and carry a radio with a panic button in case they find themselves in danger.

Alex Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the author of The End of Policing, said police work and social work should be separated and that police officers should simply not be the first responders on many types of emergency calls.

“The police see the world through a lens where every encounter is potentially deadly,” he said.

https://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/65253-the-us-police-department-that-decided-to-hire-social-workers  (from the Guardian UK 9.21.20

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