North Aurora police introduce new social worker program
The North Aurora Police Department has announced a new program that would provide a social worker to help aid police officers in responding to calls, according to a press release.
The initiative is an expansion of the six-year partnership between the department and the Association for Individual Development, a nonprofit organization that works with individuals with mental health and developmental disabilities.
According to Amanda Augustine, the victim and outreach services manager for the association, representatives from the organization previously didn't work at the station but would arrive on scene and work with individuals through their hotline.
The program, which will run through May 2021, designated Mekayla Anderson -- a graduate of Aurora University with a degree in social work -- as the police department's in-house social worker.
The program specifies eight hours a week for her to follow up on recent calls and officer referrals while also providing training for police officers.
"Recently, I found that having somebody in the police department, just present once a week doing a pilot program can be really helpful for police officers," Augustine said.
North Aurora Deputy Chief Scott Buziecki said the program is part of a larger movement in law enforcement.
"It's a trend in law enforcement," Buziecki said. "We deal with a lot of mental health situations and hopefully this can help us deal with them more effectively."
Augustine said Lombard, Geneva and South Elgin's police departments have also begun similar programs while St. Charles' department has a full-time social worker.
Buziecki said the initiative could have benefits for the community because of the different expertise a social worker brings to the department.
"I think it's going to help the community by providing services that a social worker can do that a police officer can't really do," Buziecki said. "Social work is not really our expertise."
The announcement comes in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality, with many protesters demanding police reform the way they respond to calls dealing with mental health crises.
"I think with everything going on in society, it will be really beneficial to have a social worker in the police department to collaborate," Augustine said.