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Minneapolis city subcommittee approves police request to contract social workers

A Minneapolis city council subcommittee voted to approve the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD)’s request to hire social workers in precinct offices with the intention of “increasing public satisfaction” and reducing 911 calls.

The city’s Policy and Government Oversight Committee approved the request on Monday. The two-year, $730,000 contract would embed at least five social workers in each of MPD’s five precincts. The entire city council will vote on the request on Thursday. 

The Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department would source he full-time employees. The social workers would collaborate with the police in an effort to “expand the level of service provided to individuals needing crisis intervention,” according to Minneapolis’s government website.

The proposal would deploy social workers to 911 situations to provide mental health support when deemed appropriate. The plan intends to prevent future 911 calls and “reduce [the] rate of arrests/prosecution of persons in mental health crisis.”

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“This is particularly valuable in considering a trauma informed approach to those victims and family members who have been impacted by violence,” a memo on Minneapolis’s website read.

The contractors will also connect residents using city resources and services to “formulate care plans for clients” and “assess [individuals’] longer-term needs.”

The proposal claims that social worker responses will be “customized to the person’s culture.” A key goal of the program is to “increase public satisfaction with the response to mental health services and emergencies,” in addition to helping residents.

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Several Hennepin County communities had embedded social workers in police departments as far back as 2019. If the measure passes, social workers will work alongside Minneapolis police officers in 2023. 

The approval comes over two years after the death of George Floyd, whose murder at the hands of officer Derek Chauvin rocked the city of Minneapolis and the entire country. At the time, many police reform advocates argued that an intervention by a social worker could have prevented Floyd’s death.

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