Problem-Oriented Policing: Where Social Work Meets Law Enforcement | Derrick Jackson | TEDxYDL

May 20, 2019 posted by

when you look at the badge what do you see do you see honesty and integrity or do you see brutality and disdain regardless of how you answer that question whether you're an officer or a resident the idea that I plan to share with you tonight hopefully gives you a different perspective of what's possible through law enforcement you see I'm a social worker that runs the police agency I'm the director at the Sheriff's Office and often times when I say that I get a strange look and people say well how that happened and really what I get to do is connect those two every day to create change within individuals but also change within various neighborhoods within our community I mean think about it as a young social worker I started out working at Olsen House working with homeless teenagers it was not uncommon at all for an officer to find a runaway or pick up a homeless kid off the street knock on our door and bring them and connect them to services or what about the mom who's just been abused and we respond to the domestic violence call we arrive to find her battered and bruised and it's not uncommon for us to be the connection to safe house or even the call we get about someone who's loitering downtown we arrive and find out that that man is homeless its frigid outside in the winter and we sometimes are the first connection to the shelter so imagine if we use that connection to not only focus on arresting people and solving crimes but if we also used it to focus on understanding the problem and addressing the root causes I think there's a fundamental problem with only focusing on crime and that is that a crime has to have been committed someone has to have been victimized before I take action why not understand the root cause of that crime and hopefully prevent it from ever happening the game and so I give you an example and one of our downtown areas we had a huge problem with prostitution we get business owners and family members complaining we put a sting together we'd make some arrests focus on the crime we push that problem to the city the city would get the same complaints they make some arrests they put a sting together and they push it right back to us never focusing on the problem but always focusing on the crime we pushed it back and forth between one another until one day one officer she's undercover as a prostitute for one of our stings she's trained she gets back up she has her gun and yet she's fearful and she asked herself the question what would make a woman do this and in asking that one simple question she went from focusing on arresting someone to trying to understand the actual problem and so she began to ask the women where you come from why are you here what do you do why do you do what you do and over the years what we found is every single one of them was an addict and I simply arresting them and putting them in jail had nothing to do with solving the real problem and so this officer yes we still do stings to this day but before anyone ever set foot in the jail those women go into a room with a group of social workers where they get an assessment that assessment is turned into a bond recommendation the ghost of the judge the judge uses that to sentence the women and while they're in jail they're actually getting services that is the difference when you focus on addressing root cause problems versus just on arresting people one officer one question changed the way we deal with prostitution and addiction in our community now when those women get out of jail they have an opportunity and the choice they can go back to the neighborhood and do what they were doing before they're free or they can go to the home of NuVision which has beds set aside just for the women coming out of our program to focus on and deal with addiction I'll give you another example heroin here on in Washington County just like in many places around the country has ravaged Arkham we as community members became aware of the heroin problem two summers ago when we had 12 overdoses in one weekend 12 ODS in one weekend do you know when officers knew we had a problem over four years ago so imagine if officers instead of only focused on arresting people for having heroin or using heroin if they were also asking a question of why are we seeing so much heroin in our community and maybe just maybe we in the community could have wrapped ourselves around that problem before it ever became an epidemic it's also said that in Washington County we have one of the highest rates of recidivism in the state of Michigan meaning someone commits a crime we arrest them we put them in jail they get out they reoffended we put them back in jail the cycle goes on and on and on now someone says because officers in Washington County do such a great job at solving crime and putting people in jail but we would actually say why how is it possible for someone to come into our jail 11 times not prison but jail if you've been in our jail 11 times you're not a violent offender or you would have already been gone to prison so why are you here is it because you have mental health challenges where you struggle with substance abuse or you're homeless or you struggle around educational issues or maybe it's employment and so one way that we actually decided to deal with this was to hire people coming out of jail in prison to work at the sheriff's office yes we hire felons at the Washington County Sheriff's Office I can't believe it myself sometimes but we don't hire them to sweep our floors we don't hire them to be informants to work with detectives we hire them to be the experts on the communities that they come from to be Street outreach workers to use their trust the street credibility and their relationships to help build up the neighborhoods to take one store down and so there's Julia who has 64 years old has never had a real job her first actual paycheck was with us at the sheriff's office and after years of living on the streets of prostitution and of addiction she came and she said derec I have two goals I want to reconnect with my kids and one day I want to own my own home two ideas that I thought sounded far-fetched at the time but thanks to Habitat for Humanity next month Julia moves into her own house we didn't give her that she earned that we simply connected her to her community she began to change herself and now she works every single day to change her neighborhood that is the power and the difference of focusing on arresting people and understanding the actual problem and then there's Ashton who had 14 year old years old from Ann Arbor became addicted to heroin and she was addicted for years and now she's been clean for years we didn't give her that she earned it but now she works with us to go back into the community to help those young people she used to get high with to pull them into recovery and then there's James our very first outreach worker years ago we sent him to prison for 15 years he went to San Quentin federal penitentiary no less and now he works for us he actually works to build up those communities that he once terrorized he literally works to pull kids out of the gang life that once he recruited them into I say again that is the power of focusing on solving problems and not just on arresting people and the day that I saw the undersheriff and James sitting in the under sheriff's office eating lunch together talking about how to change a particular neighborhood I realized that we had connected people in ways they had never been connected before they we had begin to change our community in ways that we had never thought about changing before and so I asked you again whether you're an officer that wears the badge or resident that fears the badge when you see it what do you think because I think about possibility to connect people to create change within themselves but also within our community thank you you


21 Replies to “Problem-Oriented Policing: Where Social Work Meets Law Enforcement | Derrick Jackson | TEDxYDL”

  1. Larry Canary says:

    Every problem is not a police problem. So stop with social justice and focus on solving crime. Solve crime and let the appropriate departments deal with the remaining societal issues.

  2. Alina says:

    This perspective is CRUCIAL. As a jail Social Worker, I never approach my male “inmates” clients as look what you did, no matter how rough and tough they come across. I go into my meetings with…this is just a set back, what is your life goal and I don’t want to see you back here. Everybody has a goal and if they don’t, I coach them into dreaming, and in time they come up with a goal. Whenever I tap into that part of the conversation with my clients, I see a shift in there demeanor and attitude. It’s powerful to watch. Change is not easy but it is possible. As long as I continue in this career, my approach will always be what he said, “focus on the root cause of a behavior” and you may see lasting change. Great reminder when working in the helping profession.

  3. alemayehu gebru says:

    Thanks for sharing us your good experiences particularly I would like to appreciate the concept of first understanding the problem or the root cause instead of dealing with criminality alone.

  4. Leca Logan says:

    Love this and you.

  5. Justaguyyoutubin says:

    Problem oriented policing has existed since the 1970s and has been widespread since the 1980's. This is not a new concept. The man is simply explaining how he applied a well known style of policing, which was created by Professor Herman Goldstein of the University of Wisconsin to his detachment. Almost every agency in North America uses a combination of the Problem Oriented approach and the Community policing approach. Im overwhelmed with how little most people in this comment section understand about police and that this seems like a new concept to them… Its really sad. For how harshly judged the police are, they are often so misunderstood. Of course the larger issue with policing is budget constraints. Police are often bound to quotas and statistics in an effort to increase their budget from council so that they can police better… Basically what this translates to is: Police are forced to give out bogus tickets and waste time with petty crimes in an effort to inflate their statistics so that they can get approved for larger budgets in an effort to get more officers and equipment so that they can ACTUALLY tackle the real issues. The public misunderstands this and often disapprove of the police because they dont see large issues being dealt with and are upset when they get reprimanded for petty crimes… If police ONLY focused on the BIG issues (which they would prefer), their statistics would plummet and they would not get an increase in budget and they would slowly lose control of an area due to poor funding. How long does it take to perform a drug sting? Depending on the size of the criminal organization it can take a command team of 2 officers investigating and analyzing information, 1-2 undercover agents, a senior officer to oversee the sting as well as a whole host of other specialty units to assist over the course of 1-2 years. During this time there are no arrests. The police are simply gathering information. When you add up the costs of doing a large scale investigation, there is almost ALWAYS a net loss of resources for a handful of arrests. The alternative to this is having all of these officers handing out traffic tickets and petty violations daily, which nets a MASSIVE profit for the city through tickets and bylaw infractions. So which do you choose as the chief of police? The Police are a business unit for the city… They must keep themselves profitable in an effort to increase their budget so that they can keep up to potential crimes that are increasing at a parallel rate with the growth of the city.

  6. Maddie and Brooke Powers says:

    This is the way to fix problems. Not rearresting people every other month. I wish more people would realize this.

  7. LaVerte Ronn Oneal Minter x says:

    Great job Mr Jackson, Can I get a job helping.????

  8. Trenay Dukes says:

    Outstanding video presentation! As a Social Worker, I experienced many of the examples mentioned as to the search and rescue mission for a social worker during an emergency to accomplish mission for law enforcement. Meanwhile, dealing with the root cause, in conjunction with legal recourse, if needed, will help to resolve reoccurring legal matters for the common good and welfare of mankind.

  9. Carissa Meier says:

    This prostitution issue story specifically relates to my neighborhood, we had huge stings outside my house on the corner. They changed the way my intersection worked, adding "no waiting/parking" signs on areas where prostitutes would sit and wait for cars. This talk is super interesting and helpful to know about the issues within my community.

  10. Gwmcmi02 says:

    This all sounds great, but you'll notice his progressive plans still include arrests. Why? Because he (his agency) are only able to offer services (remember, some people love being homeless) or make them compulsory through arrest. You can understand a problem but still only be able to address it after an arrest. An addict needs help, but he still needs go be arrested for the twenty burglaries and armed robberies he committed last week to pay for his addiction. You can do all the social work you want, but it also comes after your legal obligation to uphold the law.

  11. crazynova23 says:

    As a police officer, I love these ideas. Unfortunately I work in a community where we don't have adequate community services. We don't have shelters to refer the homeless to. We don't have substance abuse programs to refer addicts to. The reason is because in many communities, the community leaders don't care about the homeless. They don't care about the addicts. They don't care why and won't fund programs that will fix the root cause of the problem. Instead, they tell the police "there are homeless in my neighborhood. Get rid of them."

  12. Tassoula Blake-Cameron says:

    such powerful thinking, great view point.

  13. m jez says:

    build the wall

  14. Jennifer Meverden says:

    As a social worker myself, I appreciate seeing trauma informed care practice being implemented in various communities. Thank you!

  15. Dan Campbell says:

    I am impressed, we need more people in law enforcement like him!

  16. Tomatomaten says:

    I hope this way of policing spreads!

  17. Alex Klatt says:

    I appreciate your viewpoints & in a perfect world it sounds like a plan. However the prostitutes & heroin addicts who have opened up to me, tell a story most of you haven't heard yet. They have serviced high court judges, pastors, priests, rabbis, and oh so very many police officers, who were among their regular clientele. This tells me our system is broken!

  18. The German Gamer says:

    OMG I have met you before! it was during an infurupters thing. and now your on ted talks!!

  19. becky myers says:

    Great video and props to all your hard work, thank you. Could you tell me your thoughts on the Community Oriented Policing Services office? Or their report from May 2015?

  20. Jeffrey Cooper says:


  21. Sean Gallagher says:

    This is a a great use of POP in conjunction with social work and even more so an inspiring story. I am currently completing a university subject on policing with a focus on POP and this example paints the perfect picture. Well done.

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