Mount Vernon Police launch community, welfare assistance division

The Mount Vernon Police Department seeks to address social barriers that afflict at-risk populations, from children and the elderly to formerly incarcerated and those with behavioral health issues.

The ministry’s Welfare and Community Affairs Division, which will be officially introduced on Tuesday, is teaming up with social service agencies to provide city residents with not only the help they need, but also the time, dedication and expertise that traditional patrol officers rarely had.

He will operate from his own neighborhood and be involved in the School-Community Safety Partnership, an initiative with the Mount Vernon School District to address teen violence and support at-risk students.

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The new division is a consequence of recommendations made by the city’s Police Reform Commission following the murder of George Floyd. And while Assistant Police Commissioner Jennifer Lackard has spent the better part of a year setting it up, it comes at a time of renewed urgency following the downtown stabbing death of 16-year-old Kayla Green. , two weeks ago, allegedly by a 15-year-old rival. cheerleader.

Jennifer Lackard was sworn in on July 21, 2020 as Mount Vernon Police Assistant Commissioner for Special Initiatives

The enclosure opened last month on the ground floor of 203 Gramatan Ave. and will be run by police officers trained in crisis intervention alongside specialists from the Guidance Center of Westchester and other agencies.

Professionals will respond to calls with the police and provide follow-up services as needed. For veterans, homeless people, people with mental health and addictions issues, victims of domestic violence, and those who are currently or have been in trouble with the criminal justice system. .

The team approach will be particularly helpful in what Lackard called “high flyer” cases, repeated calls where having familiar faces rather than different patrollers each time can have a calming and trusting effect.

“We’re law enforcement; we’re not social workers,” Lackard said Monday. “But we have the ability to call the right people to help us.”

Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard said the effort was the first of its kind in the region and called it “a comprehensive model of violence prevention, intervention and restorative justice.”

“We must address the root causes of violence and community disengagement such as mental health, trauma, anger, addiction, homelessness, undereducation, underemployment, housing and a myriad of issues social and emotional if we hope to build a safer and more prosperous community,” she said in a statement.

Speaker operation

Using a space away from headquarters was a logical move, as police frequently hear how city residents are reluctant to enter to make reports or speak with detectives, Lackard said.

But right now, it’s not a walk-in operation. Instead, police and clinicians will respond from there and schedule follow-up meetings at the compound later.

One of the reasons for this is the limited staff. The office is closed at night and when the police are on other calls, so Lackard didn’t want to create situations where the police seemed unavailable.

Staffing issues that have plagued the department in recent years have delayed the start of the program, with half of the 10 officers trained there leaving at the end of last year.

Limited staff will also keep wellness efforts modest for the time being. The unit commander, Lt. Krista Mann, and one other officer will work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with two other officers working from 4 p.m. to midnight.

Lackard hopes that when the police academy’s newest class graduates later this year, there will be more availability for staff in the 24-hour welfare unit.

The school safety initiative will be delivered by Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center and CLUSTER Community Services. It will provide restorative discipline, increase student access to trauma services, and assist in the reintegration of students into the district after temporary placement elsewhere.

Twitter: @jonbandler

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