Monday, May 23, 2022
UNCW Master of Social Work graduate, David Reese, has filled the first social work position in the history of the Jacksonville Police Department.
Reese was first hired as an intern for the department under a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant, and believes that social work is vital to law enforcement.
“A lot of people struggle with the idea that the police officer’s job is to protect and serve. These people also see the worst of humanity daily,” Reese said. “So they go to a call, and are always extremely perceptive about what’s going on for their safety, as well as your safety. But they’re not necessarily looking at your emotional needs or the resources that could be provided to you at the time because they’re serving everyone around them.”
Rather than accompanying law enforcement on calls, Reese follows up on filed reports that require his expertise. For example, he may contact parties involved in a domestic disturbance situation days after the report was filed to offer further consultation and resources that would positively impact their situation. As police officers may lack the proper skills and the time to follow up on certain situations, social workers like Reese are able to make a huge difference in better serving the community.
Reese decided to dedicate his career of social work in law enforcement due to his experience as a U.S. Marine. Veterans comprise 20 percent of law enforcement personnel in the United States; his military background helped him become familiar with officers in the department. While Reese uses his skills with the public in different situations, he also regularly provides his services to fellow police officers.
“We skirt a hard line every day with getting trust from officers,” he said. “We want them to know that you can come in and talk with us and it’s not going to cost you your career. It’s a struggle because there has been a wall between law enforcement and mental health.”
Dr. Tobi Gilbert is the police crisis counselor for the JPD and sees the value that Reese adds by joining the team.
“He brings great talent and perspective to the Crime Victim Services unit. His experience in the U.S. Marine Corps coupled with his mental health and substance abuse training and licensure amplify his ability to work seamlessly with community members and with our law enforcement officers,” she said. “His personality is easy going, allowing for easy connections with others. JPD appreciates the ongoing relationship with UNCW School of Social Work and look forward to working with more quality individuals such as David.”
“I find myself living a fulfilled life,” he said. “At the end of the day, I go home feeling happy and satisfied.”
— Jack Bailey