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Our View: Social worker a great addition to law enforcement

We appreciate the forward thinking of local law enforcement by embracing the addition of Troy Homstad to their toolbox of public safety resources.

Homstad is a social worker from the Human Development Center who is now working with the Cloquet, Fond du Lac, and Moose Lake police departments and the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office to support officers as they respond to 911 calls that aren’t necessarily crimes. Adding a social worker to the police force is an appropriate supplement to the hard and appreciated work of traditional law enforcement officers.

Anyone who reads the jail booking report on a regular basis knows that many of the names there are repeat offenders, many of them struggling with mental illness and/or addiction issues.

If those issues — intertwined because many self-medicate for mental illnesses like anxiety or depression — would magically go away, that same booking report would almost certainly drop by more than half. Imagine getting rid of all the DWIs, drug arrests and other crimes caused by people who are drunk or high or desperate for money to fund those addictions. Adding a social worker who can help people during and after a 911 call is a step toward treating the root cause of the behaviors, versus the symptoms.

Recognizing the various tasks we ask our police force to be responsible for, and then declining to support them with properly trained personnel to carry out those responsibilities, certainly contributes to allegations of police brutality, racism and indifference. It also divides our community at a time when we need to unite more than ever.

This type of “outside the box” social approach will define progressive development in policing. We are thankful for the state program that provided the grant to fund this position and HDC for coming up with the idea and making it happen.

If successful, we will encourage other rural communities around the state to add mental health professionals and social workers to their law enforcement rosters and our local leaders to continue with the program after the grant money runs out. It just makes sense.