Sylva Police Department and Western Carolina University have partnered to change how policing is done with the new Community Care Program. This program is designed to fuse policing with social work.
Senior or graduate level students studying social work are hired as interns. These interns, known as community care liaisons, follow up with members of the community and victims to connect them with community volunteer services as well as serve as a form of communication for community members who may not feel comfortable coming directly to the police.
Lara Hartley, the current liaison describes the program as, “a bridge to resources on and off campus. While victimized students decide whether they want to seek out services, there will be a liaison with them to show that they are not alone in their process of finding help.”
Both Hartley and the university police department hope students see this program as a means to support them and keep them safe. They hope to shed a more positive light on the criminal justice field and show that it is not as aggressive as many people think.
“As someone who has always considered the criminal justice field to be presented as stern or aggressive, it was interesting to interact with officers throughout ride-alongs and see their love for the campus community,” Hartley said.
According to Hartley, as of right now the program’s focus is outreach. “The program cannot implement a positive change on campus if no one is aware of how community care serves the campus community. With plans to be more involved through outreach on campus, I hope students will see a support system within this program and the resources the campus has to offer.”
The program is beneficial for interns by providing real life experience toward their future career. “By being a mediator between the campus community and law enforcement, I feel this is a great position where MSW students are able to conduct change on campus and assist officers in achieving a safe environment,” Hartley said.
As well as the new program, the WCU Police Department has an app known as LiveSafe. The app features an ability to anonymously report suspicious activities, read over emergency procedures for WCU, access campus resources, contact emergency services, and it allows users to track others’ locations while walking.
There is also a community-police advisory committee. To contact the Community Care Program or find out more about the advisory committee, email email@example.com.