New KCPD position aimed at connecting officers to community, getting to root of crime

Posted: 10:54 PM, Aug 23, 2017
Updated: 2017-08-23 23:54:25-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Gina English received a text message from a 13-year-old girl asking for food, she didn't hesitate.

English got on her computer, ordered pizza to be delivered and paid for it out of her own pocket.

"These are the days it is really hard to stomach this job and understanding that these kids are so crazy smart and so worldly because of what they have to navigate but at the same time they are so naïve," she said.

English is the Kansas City Police Department's first social services coordinator — the lone social worker embedded in the department.

Her job is to help bridge communication between police officers and the community. She also tries to get to the root of problems, figuring out why people are committing crimes or making poor decisions.

It's like peeling back layers of an onion, she said.

"Most bad things happen because people thought they had lack of other choices," she said. "People are not just inherently bad. They find themselves in bad situations, they find themselves with limited choices so that's what we do. We try and figure it out."

She's a new tool KCPD officers now have and can rely on since a majority of their calls don't always result in arrests but rather a need for social services.

That's one of the reasons KCPD's then-Central Patrol Division Commander Major Rick Smith created the position and hired English in December.

Smith has since been promoted to police chief and said he wants to secure funding to implement English's position at every station. 

"We all need a little bit of help. We all need a little bit of support and whoever thought it would come from law enforcement? Probably nobody but it almost seems like the most ideal place," English said. 

And she's making progress. 

Last week, English and an officer went to one of her clients home and noticed the family had no food. All three jumped in the police car and went to the grocery store-- the officer picked up the bill. 

English said this shows progress because the client was afraid to be seen with the officer. 

"If our kids don't know how much we care and need them, it's hard for them to find a reason," English said.