Bloomington police look to add more civilian positions

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Bloomington residents may see a new way police interact and intervene as they try to tackle social challenges in the community. The department is asking for funding to create three more civilian positions to enhance resources for non-traditional interventions.

"When you ride with a police shift you find out that much of what we're facing in the public safety world is really driven by need for social services, need to be connected to a counselor or to a healthcare provider or to a food provider or to other housing provider," Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton said.

Mayor Hamilton saw some of the issues officers deal with on a daily basis in the community firsthand when he rode along with police. So now, through the mayor's office, the department is asking for money in next year's budget to create three new civilian positions. The first is a social worker position. That person would be able to respond directly to situations when police are called or residents are calling. The request also includes positions for two neighborhood resource specialist positions.

"Their job is to get out into the neighborhoods, engage with the neighborhood groups, interested folks and try to intervene on behalf of people in need," Hamilton said. "It can do a lot of things. Like police get called for welfare checks. Go check on my neighbor, I haven't heard from him, I'm worried about him. That's very often something a neighborhood specialist may be able to do."

"The crux of the issue is really still this, if you don't have the services in place, if you don't have the infrastructure there's nowhere to divert people to, and without that ability and proper motivation officers are going to want to revert back to just putting people in jail rather than trying to find the inpatient spot" Vauhxx Booker, a core council member of Black Lives Matter Bloomington, said.

Some residents welcomed the news but were waiting to hear more information.

"I do think it's important to have more transparency with communities and more communication with them and if these positions are able to achieve that, then that's a good thing," resident Janae Cummings said.

Mayor Hamilton said the budget request also includes more police officers and outside of the police department budget, an afterhours ambassador to get into the community and respond to situations. The total cost would be around $300,000.

"The more our police know our community the better, the more our community knows our police the better. Interactions between residents and police are good for people to get to know each other, find where the needs are," Hamilton said.

The city council is currently considering the budget for next year.