JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. — One Kentucky police department is making a significant investment in the way it approaches policing, which recognizes making an arrest is not always the right answer.
Since launching last year, officers from the Jeffersontown Police Department have had the option to call out a team of victim service specialists who are better equipped to help those needing extended help.
It’s called the REACH Program. REACH stands for Respond, Evaluate, Advocate, Connect and Heal.
“We have a lot of situations, and historically for police, you can’t arrest your way out of a number of the issues that are going on in the community,” said Officer David Minniear Jr. with Jeffersontown PD.
Since last July, the department’s three specialists have been called out over 2,000 times, and have connected people with the services over 1,400 times.
The specialists can help people going through several situations, such as homelessness, substance abuse, or human trafficking.
“When I get to the scene of a domestic violence [call] and we just take a report and start looking for the bad guy, we call the advocates out and they start looking for long-term solutions for the family,” Minniear said of their collaboration with the group.
Minniear, who has worked in law enforcement for over two and a half decades, says some people are astonished something like this is available.
“They are all grateful. They’re not used to it, frankly,” Minniear said.
Amanda Chapman, who was the department’s first social worker, oversees the REACH Program.
She explains they are able to offer a holistic approach to the issues facing her community. Chapman adds in nearly every case, people are going through more than one issue when advocates are called out.
“They’re worried about where they’re going to eat or where they’re going to lay their head at night,” Chapman said. “It’s really hard to focus on trying to call all these facilities, trying to find out who accepts what insurance or what beds are available, and they’re already in crisis so you put that on top of it and it’s really difficult.”
The program’s work does not stop there. Since last July, they’ve given out over 130 harm reduction bags that contain the overdose reversing drug Narcan. They also helped over 200 people begin treatment for substance abuse disorder.
Chapman says compared to the years prior to the launch of REACH, they are helping exponentially more people.
“They’re effective. It’s a proven fact they’re very effective, and I think they should be utilized across the country. It’s been an invaluable resource for us,” Minniear said.
It’s a new way of policing that shows a helping hand can reach a lot farther than a pair of handcuffs.