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Incorporating a Social Worker in Frontline Law Enforcement Responses

Success Spotlight

Every day, law enforcement agencies across America respond to challenging, sometimes volatile situations involving people with behavioral health issues. At best, these calls can be complex and time consuming. At worst, they can be dangerous for both responding officers and those with behavioral health concerns.

Many police departments are struggling to address crises involving the interrelated issues of mental health, homelessness, and substance use.

The city of Hodgenville, Kentucky, confronted these issues and added a full-time social worker to its police department. When warranted, the social worker joins uniformed officers as a co-responder on service calls.

Brionna Taylor-Garrett
Brionna Taylor-Garrett

Located 50 miles south of Louisville, Hodgenville has a population of about 3,300. The city police department has six sworn officers, including Chief James Richardson. The department added a civilian police social worker in late 2021.

The social worker, Brionna Taylor-Garrett, initially joined the department as an intern while completing graduate studies at the University of Kentucky. Ms. Taylor Garrett said her earliest experiences with law enforcement resulted from what she described as “unfortunate circumstances due to generational arrests” within her family. Positive interactions with police officers led her to pursue a career as a police social worker.

Ms. Taylor-Garrett helped the Hodgenville Police Department secure a $52,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program to help fund her position.

Program Successes and Effect on the Community

Ms. Taylor-Garrett estimated that about 20 percent of calls to the Hodgenville Police Department involve someone with behavioral health issues. The department also responds to a significant number of calls involving juveniles, who may also need behavioral health support. 

Since joining the department, Ms. Taylor-Garrett has assisted in over 70 service calls. More than a third of these have resulted in ongoing cases that included her continued involvement. Ms. Taylor-Garrett said she has played a role in cases related to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse or neglect.

The Hodgenville Police Department and Ms. Taylor-Garrett were recently recognized for her work when the International Association of Chiefs of Police named Ms. Taylor-Garrett to its “40 Under 40” list of outstanding young law enforcement professionals.

“Police Social Worker Taylor-Garrett has distinguished herself as a leader in her profession, and all of us at HPD could not be more proud of all of her achievements,” Chief Richardson said. “Hodgenville and Larue County are blessed to have her helping our community.”

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Date Published: January 10, 2024