NEWAYGO, Mich. (WOOD) — Nicole Klomp doesn’t carry a gun or wear a badge.

But her ability to diffuse a bad situation or get someone help during a personal crisis is becoming a vital part of policing in the city of Newaygo.

“I don’t want to be a cop. I want to be a social worker. But I really want to support law enforcement,” said Klomp, who is Newaygo City Police Department’s first ever police social worker.

The program, which is believed to be a first of its kind for a rural area, is two years in the making.

Klomp started the part-time position last month and comes to the city by way of a partnership with Arbor Circle, where she is a Clinical Manager.

Arbor Circle provides mental health, substance abuse and other counseling services.

In her new position, Klomp works with police and the community to bridge the gap between what law enforcement does and what a citizen needs when it comes to social and mental health issues.

“Having this neutral party come in and just listen. Hear what you have to say and respond with a professional manner and having that clinical aspect is very beneficial,” said Klomp, who holds a master’s degree in Social Work from Ferris State University.

Take for example, the victim in a domestic violence case investigated by Newaygo Police. Klomp steps in to make sure they have a safe place to stay and connects them with services they’ll need to get out of the abusive situation.

“Then afterwards, I can follow up with the perpetrator as well. That’s the other piece of this. I’m not only working with the victims, but I’m also working with the other side to get them the help they need,” said Klomp.

Cases to the police social worker are called into Newaygo PD or submitted by officers.

After some additional training, Klomp plans to begin responding with officers to certain calls.

“But I’m also able to support the officers themselves. Helping with their mental health. Doing debriefings after a crisis situation or a traumatic situation,” said Klomp.

Newaygo Police Chief Georgia Andres says she sees the addition of the police social worker not as a way to replace any of her 6 officers, but as an enhancement of the service they provide, especially in certain situations.

“Police are really good in crisis. Helping in the crisis. But it’s that after treatment. That’s not what police are designed to do,” said Andres.

The chief says she recognized the need for the program from the beginning but wasn’t sure what to expect from the town of about 2,000 residents when it launched five weeks ago.

“I thought, two calls maybe in a month. And we had like 40 in a month,” said Andres.

While debate continues in the streets over police policies, both Andres and Klomp say programs like Newaygo’s police social worker may be part of the solution.  

“Do I still think, do we need law enforcement? Absolutely. Do we need social work? Absolutely,” said Klomp.

“And all of the research has shown that having us work side by side is really what makes this successful,” she added.