When officers from the Indiana University Police Department are called on to help IU students, faculty and staff, they often arrive on the scene with additional support: victim advocate and social worker Conner Sturgeon.
As a licensed social worker, Sturgeon makes it possible for the IUPD to serve the IU community holistically and extend their ability to help.
“I respond with the officers and can help build a rapport with individuals in need and deescalate a situation,” Sturgeon said. “I also create a roadmap for accessing services and ongoing support for people who need it.”
Sturgeon is the IUPD’s first full-time social worker and spent his inaugural year on the job deepening the connections the police department has to mental health resources and wellness services while providing a vital service to the IU community at times when individuals are in crisis.
Taking the approach of embedding a social worker with officers is a new trend among higher education law enforcement and reflects the modern policing philosophy that guides the IUPD.
“Embedding a social worker within the Indiana University Police Department strengthens our relationship with the community we serve,” said Brad Seifers, IUPD deputy superintendent. “It provides vital services to individuals during and after we respond to calls for help, and it is an ongoing resource for our officers.”
In collaboration with police officers, Sturgeon is ready to provide support however it is needed. When he’s called to support officers at a scene, he helps crime victims through their trauma. He talks through a crisis with those who are depressed or at risk of suicide. He also connects people with housing resources or support for food insecurity.
Sturgeon is also there for officers if they need support for their mental health and well-being.
“It’s important to recognize that officers typically don’t see people on a good day,” he said. “After the crisis has been resolved, they may take their worries home with them, and that has an impact.”
Sturgeon does individualized check-ins to debrief with officers who were on the scene of an emergency or with dispatchers who answered a call from someone in crisis, but he also prioritizes making regular connections with officers when they aren’t responding to an emergency.
On National Popcorn Day, Sturgeon was at the station operating a popcorn machine and creating opportunities for officers to focus on fun. He’s organized Halloween parties and Christmas potlucks — activities that strengthen the IUPD community.
Whether he’s hosting a fun activity with officers or responding alongside them when they are called to an emergency, Sturgeon’s goal is always the same.
“We’re here to serve however we can, whatever that looks like,” he said.