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Learn About the Police Ambassador Program at UCPD

Posted on 12/10/23 by Tom in University Circle Police Department

Learn About the Police Ambassador Program at UCPD
Learn About the Police Ambassador Program at UCPD
Learn About the Police Ambassador Program at UCPD

Police officers throughout North America will often engage and serve people with various intellectual disabilities or those dealing with mental health issues. They will routinely demonstrate empathy while serving them and will look for ways to help them in any way they can. Often, our interactions tend to be one way as we assist them but what if we could make that a two-way street where they serve us and those with these challenges at the same time? A new pilot program at the University Circle Police Department is working to do just that.

We have started a new and unique Police Ambassador program where we have partnered with the HELP Foundation which serves those with intellectual disabilities and the Magnolia Clubhouse which serves those with mental health struggles and together we are providing meaningful job opportunities for those facing these challenges.

After a vetting process through these organizations and an interview process with us which includes a background check, we hired one from each institution. The Police Ambassadors are on our payroll as part-time UCPD employees and will work 2 to 4 hours a week. Each Police Ambassador will be issued a Police Ambassador uniform shirt with their name embroidered on it. In true collaboration, the HELP Foundation and Magnolia Clubhouse will share the costs for the uniform shirts. The Police Ambassadors have been assigned to a department police officer as their partner. The officers who volunteered for these assignments will work closely with them to help make their experiences safe and enriching. The potential for lifelong friendships is high and these officers will have a chance to act as mentors to them as well. However, the experience will be equally enriching for the officers who will learn to see life through the lens and experiences of the ambassadors. That alone is priceless.

So what exactly will these Police Ambassadors be doing? They will be providing clerical assistance and other administrative duties as needed at the police station. Other times, they will be greeting people at our dispatch window and helping visitors get the assistance they need. Our department is very active in community policing events and our ambassadors will be very involved in them. Whether it is a Coffee with a Cop, Skate with a Cop, a Hike with a Cop, or a Community Safety Talk, we plan to have them there representing the UCPD. They may hand out promotional items or just provide a friendly smile.

Our University Circle community is home to world-famous institutions like The Cleveland Museum of Art and Severance Music Center which houses the renowned Cleveland Orchestra. Our officers regularly conduct walk-through visits to these institutions. They will also be conducting friendly neighborhood walks with our officers where they can personally meet many of our customers in a positive setting.

The ambassadors will complete daily activity sheets to help monitor the program and provide service data. The last question asks them what they enjoyed the most about their shift that day. These activity sheets can also provide measurables that can be tracked. This data can be used for grant requests as the program grows. The safety of our police ambassadors is critical to us. They are under our care and we consider them precious. Their partners will not respond to dangerous calls with them and they will avoid situations that could be hazardous. We also make bulletproof vests available to them. The father of our first hired Police Ambassador told me to watch over his girl. We never want to let him down and will be vigilant to keep them safe.

Some of the most powerful aspects of this program are the intangibles that only the ambassadors can know and experience. It may be the knowledge that they are overcoming and knocking down challenges and making a difference for others. It could be the confidence and satisfaction of knowing that they are an example for others with similar life experiences who may gain strength from seeing their work with us. For us at UCPD, it is an opportunity to develop deeper trust with those we serve particularly persons with intellectual disabilities or mental health struggles. But the biggest reward is seeing the smile on the face of a Police Ambassador.

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