NewsAmerica in Crisis


Florida police department replacing officers with social workers for non-violent calls

Social workers to de-escalate non-violent calls
Posted at 11:53 PM, Jul 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-11 23:53:52-04

FLA. — Citizens of major cities across the United States are urging leaders to defund the police.

St. Petersburg police announced they will forfeit a 3 million dollar grant to hire new officers and relocate funds into hiring social workers to respond to non-violent calls.

“You can’t take police off the streets just because you want to hire a social worker, it’s not going to work,” said Walt Zalisko.

Florida Gulf Coast University’s Chair of the Dept of Social Work suggested a partnership.

“It shouldn’t be an either-or, it should be something where police officers/sheriff deputies should be working in unison, ” said Thomas P. Felke.

The plea for police reform comes in the aftermath of a string of police killings.

People are vouching for new de-escalation tactics.

Former Police Chief Walt Zalisko says adding social workers may do more damage than good.

“It is going to put the public in danger. It is going to put the social workers in danger because we’re going to have less police to back them up, ” said Zalisko.

Major cities such as Baltimore, Portland, and Philadelphia have set the trend in defunding the police department and investing in community programs.

“What we are in support of is investing in social work, investing in mental health, ” said Thomas P. Felke.

Social workers would respond to:

  • Intoxicated individuals
  • Mental health crises
  • Drug overdose
  • Disorderly intoxication
  • Suicide crises
  • Homeless complaints and panhandling
  • Neighborhood disputes
  • Truancy, or disorderly minors
  • Disorderly juveniles at elementary schools

“The social worker program is good in a medical or clinical environment, not out in the street when the situation is changing rapidly and that situation can turn for the dangerous, ” said Walt Zalisko.

Felke says people are less likely to respond with violence when approached by someone who is not in uniform.

“There is a clear difference in the appearance of a social worker coming in to engage and a sheriff deputy coming in to engage, ” said Thomas P. Felke.

As previously reported the Fort Myers Police Chief says while he is against the idea of cutting the budget, he does think some social services should get more money.