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Community partnership will ‘Back the Blue’ with solutions

Too many responsibilities have been piled onto the shoulders of law enforcement through the years. Not only are officers supposed to enforce the law and protect the people, but they are supposed to act as addiction and mental health experts, as well as social workers. Meanwhile, training for such scenarios is insufficient.

To begin addressing these needs, the Marshalltown Police Department is partnering with YSS of Marshall County in a 12-month pilot program.

This is a unique and one of a kind partnership. It is proposed YSS will have an office at the Police and Fire Building and staff will report directly to Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper.

YSS will be involved with calls that involve drug or alcohol addiction, homelessness, concerns parents might have with children and adults struggling with depression who are on the verge of making hasty decisions.

For example, YSS Director David Hicks said they have a good partnership with the homeless shelter in Ames, so it will be easier for that agency to establish the connection and keep track of situations.

The YSS staff will be able to provide hope to individuals and families struggling with non-crime related problems. They will point people in the right direction of organizations which can provide additional help.

YSS will also handle frequent repeating calls. Officers will not become involved in calls which have often played out over and over again. By freeing up that time, law enforcement will be able to focus on police work.

Officers spend a lot of time responding to repeat calls, according to Tupper.

When a person is struggling with addiction and the family dials 911 for help, YSS will be able to connect that family with resources. The idea is then that family will no longer have to call for law enforcement every time a situation arises, but can be connected with the appropriate agency right away.

The program is in its early stages – it doesn’t even have a name yet. A committee will begin going over ideas of what might work and what should not be involved. Then, when the program takes off, participants can determine what will and will not work as everyone involved learns by experience.

Tupper encourages anyone with program thoughts, suggestions or ideas to share them with him.

As far as anyone can tell, there is no other such partnership within the boundaries of Iowa. That means there are a lot of unanswered questions and possible scenarios that do not yet have firm responses.

If this is done correctly – and we are sure it will with Tupper and Hicks at the helm – other Iowa communities can look to Marshalltown as the example. The program creators are traveling the right path with the partnership. With the uncertain atmosphere law enforcement agencies face right now, adopting a new approach such as this is an excellent way to move forward.

It will improve police relations with on-the-job experiences of officers and the experiences members of the public have with law enforcement figures.

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