Oxford Police Dept. adds social services liaison to follow up on emergency calls

FILE: Miami University students celebrated their annual Green Beer Day in Oxford on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Because the city of Oxford has ordinances related to mass gatherings and wearing masks, police were monitoring activity throughout the day. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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FILE: Miami University students celebrated their annual Green Beer Day in Oxford on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Because the city of Oxford has ordinances related to mass gatherings and wearing masks, police were monitoring activity throughout the day. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

In response to mental health, substance abuse and social services needs in the City of Oxford and at Miami University, officials have launched a new Oxford Police position.

The social services liaison received funding approval because of the findings of an assessment by Miami’s department of family science and social work. That assessment found a need for follow-ups after local law enforcement and fire officials responded to calls.

The assessment, which included focus groups with police officers and surveys of emergency responders, led to the recommendation of the position by the Police Community Relations and Review Commission to city council.

“We found that the police and fire departments were already doing a really great job responding to calls, but one of the broader needs was really about follow-ups, especially with issues that were not crime-related such as mental health, homelessness, and other basic needs,” said Sharon Custer, FSW director. “That’s really where a social services role can be critical.”

It was the Black Lives Matter protests across the national that initially spurred Oxford to really take a look at improving crisis response methods. Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene says the city’s police officers have always been community minded and the new social services liaison role will be a step toward growing and improving that effort.

“This is a long-term commitment to the mental health needs of our community, and Miami’s department of family science and social work helped us get a better sense of those needs from a broader community lens,” she said.

The social services liaison will help train and help the department focus on community relations, and will be an advocate for various needs across the Oxford community.

“The tangible benefit will be improved community safety and health,” said Oxford Police Chief John Jones.

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