With around 10% of the city’s population estimated to be veterans, the Kingman Police Department has launched a new program to connect veterans in the police force with veterans in need in the community.
Under the new Veteran Liaison Program, police officers who have served will be dispatched on calls involving other veterans in the hopes that their shared history will help de-escalate a given situation. This will also hopefully provide a foundation to further connect them with resources available to them in the community.
While this program has only been in place for less than a month, Kingman Police Chief Rusty Cooper said many of his officers had already been doing this informally when they would come across a veteran in their work.
“What my officers who are veterans have found is that there’s an immediate bond or a trust that’s there,” Cooper said.
The area’s veteran population largely comes from The Gulf War, Desert Strom and now all the new conflicts in Afghanistan and beyond that have been going on for the past 20 years, he said. These are the same conflicts many on his staff were involved in themselves.
“I’m hiring those veterans but also we’re dealing with those same veterans out in our community,” he said.
Municipal Court Judge Jeffrey Singer has overseen the city’s Veterans Treatment Court since 2015 and proposed this program to the department as a way to connect veterans with resources and potentially keep them out of the criminal justice system altogether.
“If they know the officer that they’re talking to is a fellow veteran themselves, a lot of time it will de-escalate the situation,” Singer said.
Local emergency dispatchers will have a list of the veteran officers who are working and available to answer any calls that they know involve a veteran.
It’s impossible to always know when a call involves a veteran, Singer said, but because the city and surrounding areas have such a high veteran population, there are resource centers and designated veteran housing that can often provide a clue.
The more than a dozen veterans with the Kingman police department, both sworn and civilian, will also now wear lapel pins indicating their branch of service, making them more easily identifiable to the public and especially fellow veterans they may encounter on a call.
“I think [this program] is just another tool that we can use to better assist the veterans in our community,” Singer said.
Contact northern Arizona reporter Lacey Latch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @laceylatch. Coverage of northern Arizona on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is funded by the nonprofit Report for America and a grant from the Vitalyst Health Foundation in association with The Arizona Republic.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Kingman PD's new program will connect veterans in distress