Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Olmsted County Board has approved an expansion of a pilot program that teams up community outreach workers with local law enforcement officers.

The pilot program began a year ago and embedded one community outreach worker with the Olmsted County Sheriff's office and the Rochester Police Department. With the expansion approved today, the number of community outreach workers will increase to four.

“We started the pilot because we were finding that law enforcement was having to de-escalate situations without having awareness of referral sources or services that could be provided to individuals in crisis. That, coupled with a lack of mental health services in the community, resulted in adults and kids in detention centers and stuck in emergency departments not receiving treatment,” said Olmsted County Deputy Administrator of Health, Housing, and Human Services (HHH) Paul Fleissner. “In addition to protecting public safety, our officers were trying to be social workers and that’s just not what they are trained to do. Partnering the two entities just made sense.”

The decision was welcomed by both Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson and Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin, who described the pilot program as highly successful. Under the expanded program, the community outreach workers assigned to patrol with the law officers may be social workers or probation officers who are already employed by the County. The team will report to the Community Corrections Director and that will be named in the Diversity, Equity, and Community Outreach Team.

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