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Social Work Police Social Work
by
George Patterson

Introduction

Police social work has been defined several ways among the entries published in major social work reference works. The first time police social work appears in the Encyclopedia of Social Work (18th ed.), it is defined in Treger 1987 (cited under Reference Works) as a new area of social work practice in which social workers provide assessment and crisis intervention in a timely manner to individuals experiencing delinquency, mental health issues, alcohol and substance use and abuse, family and neighbor conflicts, and crime victimization. Social workers also provide counseling to police officers and their families as well as training and consultation. Treger also highlights the challenges that arise when social workers and police collaborate. Finally, Treger notes that 50% to 90% of calls that police receive require a social service response. This establishes the basis for police social work. In other writings, Treger describes demonstration projects in Illinois that provided the foundation for police social work practice. Prior and subsequent to Treger’s work, a literature has developed that describes the types of social challenges addressed by police social workers, roles and tasks, problems that arise when social workers and police collaborate, benefits derived from police social work, and similarities and differences between social workers and police officers. Despite more than 13,000 police departments operating in the United States, police social work constitutes a small area of social work practice. Police social work collaborations range from models in which social workers are employed by police departments to those in which social workers are employed in human service agencies and establish collaborations with police departments. Police social work is international in scope. Documented collaborations, and the similarities between police functions and social work, include numerous countries; among them, Great Britain and the United States of America. Despite geographic differences, the literature supports the need for police social work and identifies the benefits that can be derived from such collaborations. The types of social problems around which social workers and police officers collaborate are also similar among the various countries, and they include issues dealing with juvenile offenders, child abuse, and domestic violence. However, a debate exists regarding whether social workers and police can collaborate effectively given the differences between the two occupations. Most of the literature is of older vintage.

Introductory Works

Vintage work focused on the topic of police social work either described police officers as social workers because of the duties they perform within communities that are related to social services, or stressed the need for social workers to collaborate with police. This work reviews the emergence of police social work as an area of social work practice and establishes the basis for police social work. Although much of the police social work literature is of older vintage, this does not imply that police social work is no longer an area of practice. Police social work is a small specialty area within the social work profession. Few police departments hire social workers to perform police social work. Many sources illustrate these points. Katherine Briar conducted a study and found that 26% of the calls to the 911 dispatcher were for general advice and information and 22% were related to victim needs (Briar 1985). Briar concluded that these calls could be handled directly by social workers employed within communication centers. Coordinating police and social work, published in The American City in 1952, is among the earliest articles to describe the hiring of social workers to work in a police department; in this case, in a department located in Rochester, New York. Jones 1963 describes the social work role of the police officer and how police in Great Britain could improve community relations by preventing juvenile crime using social work techniques. Patterson 2004 examines data identifying the types of problems, referrals, and services provided by a small police social work team located in the northeastern United States. Roberts 2007 describes the historical background of police social work and notes that policewomen were hired in police departments prior to 1930. Oden and Schlossman 1991 traces the history of the first female police officer who was also a social worker. Walker 2006 suggests that the effects of early police social workers and policewomen on present-day policing are not recognized. In a comprehensive study, Zimmerman 1988 samples forty-six police social workers from twenty-three police social work departments and noted the small size of police social work units.

  • Briar, Katharine H. 1985. Emergency calls to police: Implications for social work intervention. Social Service Review 59.4: 593–603.

    DOI: 10.1086/644333Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This interesting and innovative study describes a content analysis of nondispatched calls made to a 911 center. Results show that nearly half of the nondispatched calls were for social service needs. Conclusions suggest that social workers employed within communication centers could refer these callers to social service and other agencies.

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  • Coordinating police and social work. 1952. The American City 67 (December): 163.

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    This very early writing described the hiring of social workers within a police department in Rochester, New York. Social workers intervened in marriage and family problems and in cases involving youth and missing persons. The approach was described as effective. It was anticipated that social workers would help reduce the crime rate.

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  • Jones, Howard. 1963. Policemen as social workers. New Society 14 (November): 9–10.

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    This early writing is one of many that recognizes the social work functions of policing and describes police officers as social workers. How police in Great Britain can improve community relations by preventing juvenile crime with social work principles is discussed.

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  • Oden, Mary E., and Steven Schlossman. 1991. Guardians of virtue: The juvenile court and female delinquency in early 20th century Los Angeles. Crime & Delinquency 37.2: 186–203.

    DOI: 10.1177/0011128791037002003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This historical article traces the influence of the Progressive Era in police social work. During the early 20th century youth services were guided by gender beliefs that arrested girls would receive better services from female professionals, including female police officers. It describes a social worker who became the first policewoman in the United States. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Patterson, George T. 2004. Police social work crisis teams: Practice and research implications. Stress, Trauma and Crisis 7:93–104.

    DOI: 10.1080/15434610490450886Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article presents a study examining data identifying the types of social problems addressed, referrals, and services provided by a police social work team located in the northeastern United States. From 221 records over a nine-month period, family problems represented 65% of the cases. A case example is also provided.

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  • Roberts, Albert. R. 2007. Police social work: Bridging the past to the present. In Social work in juvenile and criminal justice settings. Edited by Albert R. Roberts and David W. Springer, 126–129. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

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    This interesting historical book chapter traces the development of police social work prior to 1930 through the 1950s and 1960s. This is one of the few writings that trace the origins of police social work to the employment of female police officers with some social work training.

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  • Walker, Dwayne. 2006. Lost and forgotten: Early police social workers. The New Social Worker 13.2: 8–9.

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    This interesting historical article extends the contributions of policewomen as the beginning of the police social work movement. Policewomen and their work peaked between 1924 and 1928. Following this period the influence of their work began to diminish.

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  • Zimmerman, Sheryl I. 1988. Police social work in twenty-three programs: Program description and analysis of interdisciplinary relations. PhD diss., Univ. of Illinois at Chicago.

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    A very comprehensive dissertation study that sampled forty-six police social workers from twenty-three police social work departments. Results describe the types of interventions provided and the sources of referral to police social workers. Importantly, referrals were made from outside the police department. The perceptions of police social workers were also examined.

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Journals

The practice of police social work clearly requires social work skills related to collaboration, service provision, and assessment and crisis intervention. It also requires knowledge about police culture, the organizational environment, and other issues associated with policing. Because police social work is international in scope, information describing policing practices throughout the world can be invaluable. Reading policing journals and police research is one method by which to obtain knowledge of policing issues. It is essential to acquire knowledge of the functions of the police and to be informed about current issues that they experience in performing their jobs. It is important to also know about the possible effects that performance of their duties can have on members of the police. Police social workers can provide a variety of mental health services to police officers, in addition to their role in receiving referrals from police officers to assist community residents. Numerous criminal justice journals exist that publish policing subject matter, and a few of the journals are mentioned here. This list is not exhaustive, but it illustrates the international scope of policing issues. The Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice examines current issues throughout the criminal justice system. The Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology publishes articles that apply theory and practice to policing and criminal justice issues. Articles on police psychology are published, although court and correctional issues are also addressed in the journal. Police Practice and Research focuses exclusively on police research and is international in scope. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management is an interdisciplinary journal that publishes articles focused on policing issues. The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin counts readers in more than 150 countries. Articles addressing many aspects of policing are published. The Police Quarterly is a peer-reviewed journal. Policing articles are both quantitative and qualitative in scope. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice is an international peer-reviewed journal that focuses on policing.

Reference Works

Police social work practice has been described in numerous influential professional social work reference works. These works include the Encyclopedia of Social Work (18th, 19th, and 20th eds.), The Social Work Dictionary (3d, 4th, and 5th eds.), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Work, the Social Worker’s Desk Reference, and a policing reference work titled The Encyclopedia of Police Science. While each entry from these sources is uniquely different, distinctive aspects of police social work are emphasized. For example, Barker 2003 highlights practices in police precincts, courts, and jails as well as services to crime victims. Barton 2000 notes the problems that arise in police social work collaborations. Knox and Roberts 2002 describes the services provided and the roles, staffing patterns, and future recommendations for police social work. Patterson 2008 suggests that police social workers are professionally trained social workers and individuals with related academic degrees due to civil service regulations that guide hiring practices. Treger 1995 discusses the characteristics of an effective police social work program and the challenges social workers experience, whereas Treger 1989, an earlier work, reports that police social work is rooted in the fact that 50% to 90% of police calls are social service related. A seminal entry in The Encyclopedia of Social Work, Treger 1987 describes police social work as a new area of social work practice.

  • Barker, Robert. L. 2003. Police social work. In The social work dictionary. 5th ed. By Robert L. Barker, 285. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.

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    Police social work is defined as “professional social work practice” in police precincts, courts, and jails. Services provided include those to crime victims, individuals who have been accused of crimes, and family members. Police social workers are civilians or police officers with professional social work training.

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  • Barton, Rose. 2000. Police officers and the interface with social work. In The Blackwell encyclopedia of social work. Edited by Martin Davies, 257. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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    This important reference article describes some of the common objectives between police work and social work, as well as the tension that arises when police officers and social workers collaborate. Joint training related to social problems such as child welfare, domestic violence, and sex offender work are described.

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  • Knox, Karen, and Albert R. Roberts. 2002. Police social work. In Social worker’s desk reference. Edited by Albert R. Roberts and Gilbert. J. Greene, 668–672. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This informative entry describes the police as responding to family problems and human service problems twenty-four hours a day. Police and social workers provide a collaborative team approach to these problems. This entry also reviews services provided, roles, staffing patterns, and future recommendations for police social work.

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  • Patterson, George T. 2008. Police social work. In The encyclopedia of social work. 20th ed. Vol. 3. Edited by Terry Mizrahi and Larry E. Davis, 357–362. New York: National Association of Social Workers and Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This recent entry identifies police social workers as professional social workers and individuals with related academic degrees. Several studies are summarized involving investigation of the tasks performed by police social workers and program effectiveness. Future directions include disaster and school collaborations, and stress management training for police.

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  • Treger, Harvey. 1987. Police social work. In The encyclopedia of social work. 18th ed. Edited by Anne Minahan, 263–268. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press.

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    This seminal reference work describes police social work as a new and developing specialty within the field of social work. The problems encountered in collaboration are emphasized as well as steps that can be taken to resolve these problems. Social problems include juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, and child abuse.

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  • Treger, Harvey. 1989. Police social work team. In The encyclopedia of police science. Edited by W. G. Bailey, 480–486. New York: Garland.

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    This non-social work reference addresses topics relevant to the study of police science. Treger notes the emergence of police social work beginning around 1950 and observes that police social work practice is grounded in the fact that 50% to 90% of police calls are for social service needs.

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  • Treger, Harvey. 1995. Police social work. In The encyclopedia of social work. 19th ed. Edited by Richard L. Edwards and June G. Hopps, 1843–1848. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press.

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    This is an update to an entry first included in the 18th edition. Provides an overview of social work success in collaborating with other disciplines, suggests that resulting knowledge and skills can be useful for police social workers, and examines the characteristics and challenges of effective police social work programs.

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Textbooks

Few books have been published that focus exclusively on police social work. Whereas these books were published some time ago, they are still timely today and provide valuable guidance on how to develop and implement a police social work collaboration. Problems inherent in police social work collaborations are as relevant today as they were when these books were written. Some variation exists in the type of content covered within each of these books. For example, Colbach and Fosterling 1976 provides extensive case examples of police social work practice. Thomas 1994 writes about police social work practice in Great Britain, although the material is relevant for other countries as well. Treger 1975 reports on the development and implementation of police social work collaboration, and provides the results of a study that investigated hypotheses regarding the effectiveness of the police social work collaboration. In addition to books that focus on police social work, works that address general policing issues provide valuable information about the police and law enforcement agencies. Observing that police officers manage social problems that do not require a traditional law enforcement response, Goldstein 1990 examines the application of problem-oriented policing for addressing these problems. O’Keefe 2004 provides an overview of the police selection and training process, and Albanese 2008 provides an overview of the criminal justice system and the role of law enforcement.

  • Albanese, Jay S. 2008. Criminal justice. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

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    The book provides a comprehensive overview of the criminal justice system and describes the relationship between policing and the larger system. Albanese examines the role of the U.S. police in criminal procedures, the origins and organization of police departments, and community service.

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  • Colbach, Edward M., and Charles D. Fosterling. 1976. Police social work. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

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    This is one of the few textbooks in which this important subject is addressed. A well-written and organized book that provides case examples from practice. Real situations and interventions are illustrated. Also describes social work interns working within a police department and the subsequent hiring of police social workers.

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  • Goldstein, Herman. 1990. Problem-oriented policing. Philadephia: Temple Univ. Press.

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    This highly regarded book describes the concept of problem-oriented policing and its application for aiding police officers with managing social problems.

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  • O’Keefe, James. 2004. Protecting the public: The education and training of American police officers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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    This informative textbook covers a range of issues related to police selection and training. O’Keefe includes how police are recruited, screened, and hired; police training philosophy and curriculum content; field training programs; and in-service training. A must-read for those who want to learn about how police officers are trained.

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  • Thomas, Terry. 1994. The police and social workers. 2d ed. Aldershot, UK: Arena.

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    This is the second edition of a book originally published in 1986. This edition addresses the effects of legislation on police social work in Great Britain. Problems and benefits are explored as well as social problems such as child abuse and domestic violence. The book has relevance outside the United Kingdom.

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  • Treger, Harvey. 1975. The police-social work team: A new model interprofessional cooperation—A university demonstration project in manpower training and development. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

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    This informative book describes a social service project designed and implemented to benefit the criminal justice system through timely assessment and interventions that reduce the burden on the criminal justice system of individuals with social service needs. An essential book for individuals considering establishing a police social work program.

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Challenges in Police Social Work

Police social work practice and social work collaborations formed with police can be challenging due in part to the differences between the two occupations. Whereas articles and other materials that focus on police social work also tend to focus on the challenges that arise, some materials are unique in terms of identifying specific challenges and their effects. The following articles address the most common challenges that are inherent in police social work practice. It is important both to understand these challenges and to consider solutions to solve them in order to develop and sustain successful police social work collaborations. These challenges are also international in scope. Bar-On 1995 suggests that police social work collaboration is impractical due to occupational and societal structures, and because the differences between the occupations are greater than the similarities. The authors Curtis and Lutkus 1985 surveyed forty-one police social workers regarding their views regarding confidentiality within a police department setting. Holdaway 1986 discusses the challenges inherent in police social work in Great Britain. Richards 1976 also examines the challenges of police social work collaboration in Great Britain. Gary Parkinson (Parkinson 1980) surveyed twenty-five police officers and twenty-five social workers and reported that sex role stereotypes impeded collaboration. Interestingly, Stephens 1988 suggests that police and social work managers work well together in developing policies for collaboration. It is the implementation stage among front-line workers that present challenges for collaboration. Thomas 1988 discusses the quasi-military structure of police departments and the consultative structure of social work agencies as well as differences in gender, education, and occupational culture; and Treger 1981 discusses co-option and the loss of professional identity among police social workers.

  • Bar-On, Arnon. 1995. They have their job, we have ours: Reassessing the feasibility of police-social work cooperation. Policing and Society 5:37–51.

    DOI: 10.1080/10439463.1995.9964709Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This comprehensive overview of problems in collaboration suggests that differences in occupational culture and structure result in the impracticality of police social work collaboration. These differences include mission, objectives, ideology, types of interventions, and gender and education.

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  • Curtis, Patrick A., and Anita M. Lutkus. 1985. Client confidentiality in police social work settings. Social Work 30.4: 355–360.

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    This informative study examines the problems associated with client confidentiality in police departments. The authors conclude that confidentiality is different within police departments, and that maintaining client confidentiality could be a barrier to successful collaboration.

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  • Holdaway, Simon. 1986. Police and social work relations: Problems and possibilities. British Journal of Social Work 16:137–160.

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    This interesting article reviews the differences and similarities between police and social workers in Great Britain. The author asserts that, although conflict exists between police and social workers, once the myths regarding the two occupations are recognized and understood a foundation for collaboration can be established. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Parkinson, Gary C. 1980. Cooperation between police and social workers: Hidden issues. Social Work 25.1: 12–18.

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    This quantitative Canadian study found that different perceptions between police officers and social workers hindered collaboration. Each occupation criticized the other. The author concludes that sex role stereotypes are formed based on social structures of oppression, injustice, and inequality, and they serve as underlying barriers to collaboration.

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  • Richards, Kay. 1976. Conversation—not confrontation. Social Work Today 7.8: 232.

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    This brief and detailed overview of problems associated with police social work suggests that differences in philosophy, age, gender, social class, education, societal demand, and professional responsibilities are the basis for conflict. It is suggested that social workers avoid trying to achieve consensus with police and engage in productive dialogue.

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  • Stephens, Mike. 1988. Problems of police-social work interaction: Some American lessons. The Howard Journal 27.2: 81–91.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2311.1988.tb00607.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A critical article that reviews the lessons learned from an American police social collaboration and the implications for replicating police social work programs in Great Britain. The author recognizes that police in both the United States and Great Britain respond to calls that require a social service function.

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  • Thomas, Terry. 1988. The police and social workers: Creativity or conflict? Practice 2.2: 120–129.

    DOI: 10.1080/09503158808416987Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This qualitative study describes interviews conducted with social workers in Great Britain. Results suggest that despite differences in power, gender, education, occupational culture, and the quasi-military structure of police departments and the consultative structure of social work agencies, overall social workers reported positive relations with police.

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  • Treger, Harvey. 1981. Police social work cooperation: Problems and issues. Social Casework 61.5: 426–433.

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    This is one of the few sources that acknowledge the loss of professional identity among police social workers that can occur as a result of collaborating with police. Suggestions for resolving this dilemma include training from professional associations that can increase understanding of boundaries.

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Attitude Comparisons Between Police and Social Workers

Much of the police social work literature describes the differences between social workers and police as a problem that impedes, or a barrier to, collaboration. It is important to understand these differences in views, attitudes, and perceptions among both social workers and police because they work with similar social problems. Moreover, these differences have the potential to impede service provision. An understanding of these differences can be used to overcome them. Quantitative studies in the areas of child abuse or domestic violence are the primary source of attitude comparisons. These studies are also international in scope. Cheung and Boutte-Queen 2000 investigates differences in emotional responses to child sexual abuse between police and social workers in Hong Kong. Home 1994 compares perceptions of responsibility and seriousness of domestic violence situations among police and social workers. Kelley 1990 examines differences in attitudes regarding responsibility for child sexual abuse and case management interventions between child protective workers, nurses, and police. McMullan, et al. 2009 compares perceptions of domestic violence between law enforcement, non-law enforcement criminal justice, and social work students. Trute, et al. 1992 compares attitudes regarding child sexual abuse among police and child welfare and community mental workers.

  • Cheung, Monit, and Needha McNeil Boutte-Queen. 2000. Emotional responses to child sexual abuse: A comparison between police and social workers in Hong Kong. Child Abuse & Neglect 24.12: 1613–1621.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0145-2134(00)00203-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This well-written study investigated thirty-seven emotional responses to child sexual abuse among police and social workers in Hong Kong. Results show that police and social workers reported differences in only seven responses. Overall, social workers and police did not differ in their responses.

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  • Home, Alice M. 1994. Attributing responsibility and assessing gravity in wife abuse situations: A comparative study of police and social workers. Journal of Social Service Research 19.1–2: 67–84.

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    This informative Canadian study compared perceptions of responsibility and seriousness of domestic violence situations among police and social workers. Police and social workers differed in their perceptions of responsibility and seriousness of domestic violence. Results were attributed to differences in gender, education, and professional culture.

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  • Kelley, Susan J. 1990. Responsibility and management strategies in child sexual abuse: A comparison of child protective workers, nurses, and police officers. Child Welfare 59.1: 43–51.

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    The author examined attitudes regarding responsibility for child sexual abuse and case management interventions among child protective workers, nurses, and police. Attitude differences were associated with factors such as research participant’s occupation, the victim’s gender, and the social status of the abuser.

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  • McMullan, Elizabeth C., Philip E. Carlan, and Lisa S. Nored. 2009. Future law enforcement officers and social workers: Perceptions of domestic violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 20.10: 1–21.

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    This study compared perceptions of domestic violence among students in law enforcement, non-law enforcement criminal justice, and social work. Results show that law enforcement students reported less sensitivity toward domestic violence than non-law enforcement and social work students, and suggest that social work techniques could benefit non-social work students. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Trute, Barry, Elizabeth Adkins, and George MacDonald. 1992. Professional attitudes regarding the sexual abuse of children: Comparing police, child welfare and community mental health. Child Abuse & Neglect 16:359–368.

    DOI: 10.1016/0145-2134(92)90045-SSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study conducted in rural Canada that compared attitudes among police, child welfare, and community mental workers regarding child sexual abuse. The majority of child welfare workers were social workers. Significant differences were found between child welfare workers and police, particularly on issues of whether to treat or punish perpetrators.

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Child Abuse

Child abuse is one of the many social problems in which police social workers intervene, or that serves as the focus of collaborations between social workers and the police. These collaborations are international in scope. Conte, et al. 1980 describes collaboration between police and social workers in response to child sexual abuse in the United States. Fielding and Conroy 1992 describes the use of videotaped interviews in child sexual abuse cases in Great Britain. Findlay 1991 reports on a model for joint police and social work investigations of child abuse in Scotland. Fong and Cheung 1997 discusses child sexual abuse training with police officers, social workers, and clinical psychologists in Hong Kong. Garrett 2004 examines variations in perceptions among police and social workers in child protection collaborations in Great Britain. Waterhouse and Carnie 1991 constitutes a study of police social work collaboration developed for child sexual abuse in Scotland.

  • Conte, Jon R., Lucy Berliner, and Donna Nolan. 1980. Police and social workers cooperation: A key in child sexual assault cases. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 49.3: 7–10.

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    The authors describe an innovative collaboration in which social workers, police officers, and prosecutors worked together. Joint meetings and training were held. Positive views of social workers and police officers toward each other resulted from the collaboration.

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  • Fielding, Nigel, and Sue Conroy. 1992. Interviewing child victims: Police and social work investigations of child sexual abuse. Sociology 26.1: 103–124.

    DOI: 10.1177/0038038592026001007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This interesting article explores the role that sociology can play in conducting interviews with child sexual abuse victims in Great Britain. The authors assert that sociology has much to offer in terms of understanding the social interactions that occur in interviews. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Findlay, Colin. 1991. Joint police and social work investigations in child abuse: A practice example from Scotland. Children & Society 5.3: 225–231.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.1991.tb00486.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes joint police and social work investigations in response to child abuse in Scotland. The background for the collaborative model, strengths and weaknesses, and future suggestions are discussed. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Fong, Kam, and Monit Cheung. 1997. Developing the interview protocol for video-recorded child sexual abuse investigations: A training experience with police officers, social workers, and clinical psychologists in Hong Kong. Child Abuse & Neglect 21.3: 273–284.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0145-2134(96)00154-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An innovative interview protocol was developed for child sexual abuse investigations in Hong Kong. The authors also describe child sexual abuse training with police officers, social workers, and clinical psychologists. An interdisciplinary approach to investigations is seen as a significant approach and the protocol is provided as a guide.

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  • Garrett, Paul M. 2004. Talking child protection: The police and social workers “working together.” Journal of Social Work 4.1: 77–97.

    DOI: 10.1177/1468017304042422Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study examined qualitative data collected through interviews from both police and social workers regarding child protection in Great Britain. The data revealed the problems associated with such collaborations; however, the role and purpose of social work was seen as crucial for program success. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Waterhouse, Lorraine, and James Carnie. 1991. Social work and police response to child sexual abuse in Scotland. British Journal of Social Work 21.4: 373–379.

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    The authors used randomly selected child sexual abuse case records and one hundred interviews with police and social workers in Scotland in examining police social work collaborations developed for child sexual abuse. Results show differences in approaches between the two occupations and a need for clarity around collaboration. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Domestic Violence

Similar to child abuse, domestic violence is also a social problem in which police social workers intervene, or that are the focus of collaborations between social workers and the police. Also similar is the international nature of this work. Cooper, et al. 2008 applies a social justice perspective for police social work collaboration in response to domestic violence in Australia. Corcoran, et al. 2001 describes a police social work response to domestic violence in the southwestern United States. The authors acknowledge the importance of assessing knowledge by police officers of a police social work team, as their knowledge of the team can affect referrals and satisfaction with the team.

  • Cooper, Lesley, Julia Anaf, and Margaret Bowden. 2008. Can social workers and police be partners when dealing with bikie-gang related domestic violence and sexual assault? European Journal of Social Work 11.3 (September): 295–312.

    DOI: 10.1080/13691450701733317Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A research study that describes the complexities found among police and social workers involved with domestic violence collaboration in Australia. These include victim’s involvement with multiple police departmental units, clients being both victims and perpetrators, and occupational differences between the police and social workers.

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  • Corcoran, Jacqueline, Margaret Stephenson, Derrelyn Perryman, and Shannon Allen. 2001. Perceptions and utilization of a police-social work crisis intervention approach to domestic violence. Families in Society 82.4: 393–398.

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    Results of a study that recognized the importance of officer’s perceptions of police social work for program success. Police were surveyed regarding perceptions and knowledge of the team, whether they used the team, and the areas in which the team appeared to be most effective. Police perceived the team as effective. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Social Work Services for Police Officers

One aim of the social work profession is to improve individuals’ social functioning. Police social workers also provide services to police officers and their families, although this occurs less frequently than working with referrals from police officers to provide services to community residents. The services that social workers provide to police officers and their families are generally mental health services, and social workers who provide these services may or may not consider themselves as police social workers. Callahan 2000 explains the process of debriefing for police officers and the benefits that a social worker perspective could provide. Openshaw 2009 describes innovative group work practice with police officers and their spouses focused on improving marital relationships. Patterson 2008 provides a framework for facilitating cognitive-behavioral stress management groups with police officers. Schowengerdt 1984 summarizes the crucial role that counselors, psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists play in the officer selection process, counseling, consultation, and field investigations within police departments.

  • Callahan, Jay. 2000. Debriefing the Oklahoma City police. In Disaster and traumatic stress research and intervention. Edited by Michael J. Zakour and Katherine R. Smith, 285–294. New Orleans, LA: Tulane Univ., School of Social Work.

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    This article illustrates a debriefing response after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The author provides examples to propose that a social work perspective could enhance the debriefing services that were provided and avoid problems that arose.

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  • Openshaw, L. 2009. Police officers and their spouses. In Encyclopedia of social work with groups. Edited by Alex Gitterman and Robert Salmon, 228–230. New York: Routledge.

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    This novel encyclopedia entry describes the provision of a social group intervention for police officers and their spouses aimed at improving their marital relationship. A description is provided for the structure of the groups and the content addressed.

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  • Patterson, George T. 2008. A framework for facilitating stress management educational groups for police officers. Social Work with Groups 31.1: 53–70.

    DOI: 10.1300/J009v31n01_05Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a module for a cognitive-behavioral framework useful for conducting stress management groups with police officers. The major sources of stress for police are reviewed.

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  • Schowengerdt, George S. 1984. Human service professionals for smaller departments. The Police Chief 51: 29–31.

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    The author provides a brief summary of the types of human service professionals most likely to provide services within law enforcement settings. Also included is a brief discussion of the roles that each provider has within law enforcement settings.

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Police Brutality

Social workers unfamiliar with police social work may contemplate the social justice mission of the profession and the implications for applying an antioppressive framework in law enforcement organizations as a major function of police social work. These views may be based on concerns that the police are an oppressive presence within some communities and treat some citizens in an overly aggressive manner. It is important to keep in mind that police social workers are not hired to intervene in these situations. This theme is underscored in Morales and Sheafor 1995. The authors suggest that, as a result of the clinical emphasis dominant in the profession, social workers are more likely to provide clinical services to individuals referred by police rather than serve as advocates for police brutality victims. Similarly, Ellis 1981 notes that, whereas the social work profession has a rich history of providing social services to urban populations, police brutality in urban neighborhoods is an issue in which the profession has been less involved.

  • Ellis, Arthur L. 1981. Where is social work? Police brutality and the inner city. Social Work 26.2: 511–515.

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    This dated but relevant article suggests that the social work profession has not been active in police brutality issues despite the major presence of the profession in providing services in urban areas. Intervention strategies that include involvement of organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers and the American Bar Association are provided.

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  • Morales, Armando, and Bradford W. Sheafor. 1995. Social work: A profession of many faces. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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    This interesting book chapter defines police brutality victims as a special population who experience human and civil rights violations. The authors assert that the role of social work has become one in which social workers assist police officers with referrals rather than serving as advocates for victims affected by police brutality.

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Models/Demonstration Projects

The police social work literature describes numerous innovative model programs and demonstration projects that have been developed and implemented in the United States and other countries. It is not the intention here to report all of the programs, but rather to provide some examples that have been replicated and heavily relied on by local stakeholders. Dean, et al. 2000 provides an overview of police social work collaborations and describes numerous effective collaborations located in North Carolina and Tennessee. Fein and Knaut 1986 describes a demonstration project—the Crisis Intervention Support Unit (CISU)—that is focused on helping victims of violent crime. Holmes 1982 discusses a police social work collaboration formed between the police and a family service agency. The innovative program was approved by the community board and provided crisis intervention and outreach services to families experiencing domestic violence. Michaels and Treger 1973 describes two early, innovative demonstration projects implemented in Illinois and explains how problems in collaboration can be resolved to benefit the provision of services to community residents. Penner 1959 describes the Englewood Project, one of the earliest projects designed as a police social work experiment that focused on children and their families involved with police. Slaght 2002 reports on the involvement of social workers in training police officers through incorporating social work courses into university officer training. Thomson and Treger 1973 provides data that show the positive effects of a police social work model intended to divert youth away from juvenile court. Guidelines for establishing a police social work are essential so that the model can be replicated. Finally, Vallianatos 2000 describes the Youth Service Providers Network program within the Boston Police Department and reports the model has been replicated in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  • Dean, Charles W., Richard Lumb, Kevin Proctor, James Klopovic, Amy Hyatt, and Rob Hamby. 2000. Social work and police partnership: A summons to the village strategies and effective practices. Charlotte: Governor’s Crime Commission, North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

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    This must-have resource provides an overview of police social collaboration. Unique features include a checklist for effective program implementation, guidelines for determining whether programs are effective, and helpful appendices. Police social work collaborations located in North Carolina and Tennessee are described.

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  • Fein, Edith, and Susan A. Knaut. 1986. Crisis intervention and support: Working with the police. Social casework 67.5: 276–282.

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    This article describes the Crisis Intervention Support Unit (CISU) demonstration project for helping violent crime victims, and it includes program operations, case examples, client characteristics, services and referrals provided, and costs associated with the model. The model was designed and implemented to be different from other police social work teams.

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  • Holmes, S. A. 1982. A Detroit model for police-social work co-operation. Social Casework 63.4: 220–226.

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    This community-informed article describes an innovative program that provides crisis intervention and outreach services to families experiencing domestic violence. The author reviews the historical community issues that guided the model, pilot project, funding issues, and several actual case examples.

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  • Michaels, Rhoda A., and Harvey Treger. 1973. Social work in police departments. Social Work 69 (September): 67–75.

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    This pioneer work describes two demonstration projects in Illinois that show how collaboration problems can be resolved to benefit the provision of services in communities. It is one of many writings by Harvey Treger that provide useful information regarding this demonstration project that can be helpful for replication.

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  • Penner, G. Lewis. 1959. An experiment in police and social agency co-operation. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 322 (March): 79–88.

    DOI: 10.1177/000271625932200111Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This dated, although relevant, article describes the Englewood Project, one of the earliest police social work collaborations. Project goals focused on services to children and their families involved with the police. Case examples and recommendations for future actions resulting from the project are provided. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Slaght, Evelyn F. 2002. Revisiting the relationship between social work and law enforcement. Journal of Community Practice 10.2: 23–36.

    DOI: 10.1300/J125v10n02_02Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Asserting that social workers can be involved in training police officers in mental health issues, the author describes incorporating social work courses into university training for police officers. This collaboration resulted in improved relations between police officers and social workers.

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  • Thomson, Doug, and Harvey Treger. 1973. Police social work cooperation and the overburden of the juvenile court. Police Law Quarterly 3.3: 28–39.

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    This article describes an early model for police social work collaboration intended to divert youth away from juvenile court through referrals. A study examined data from juvenile court referrals. The study also examined actions officers might have taken if the Social Service Project (SSP) were not in place.

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  • Vallianatos, Corinna. 2000. Social workers intervene at police stations. NASW News 45.1: 14.

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    This newsletter entry describes a police social work collaboration located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, modeled after the Youth Service Providers Network program in Boston. The Boston program began with a single social worker in 1996 and increased to thirteen as of 2000. The caseloads and funding for the program are described.

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LAST MODIFIED: 02/06/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195389678-0016

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