Story by: Matthew Guerry

The Rapid City Police Department is taking steps toward the establishment of a program said to provide greater protection for survivors of violent households.

By launching what is called a family justice center, city police are attempting to do more for victims of domestic and child abuse than investigate their abusers. The center would serve to connect them with local providers of counseling and intervention services whom Police Chief Karl Jegeris said are better suited to shield them from further violence.

“It’s a strategy to try to get to the root cause,” Jegeris said Wednesday.

Speaking in the city council chambers at Wednesday’s Legal and Finance Committee meeting, Jegeris said the family justice center model is common in larger cities and speaks to a broader trend of law enforcement collaborating with social workers. He likened the concept to the OneHeart campus, a privately operated and publicly funded development on Kansas City Street that is expected to house multiple local organizations committed to combating homelessness.

Similarly, Jegeris said a justice center in Rapid City would be managed by a local nonprofit. He said that the police department has already met with several potential partners, although he declined to name any.

The department is looking to research the viability of a local family justice center by bringing on a program manager who Jegeris said would develop a business plan for one. The position would be funded by a state grant for which the department is applying.

If the application is accepted, the South Dakota Department of Public Safety would provide $134,614 to the department that Jegeris said could be used over the next year and a half. The grant would not only pay for the new position but would fund the department’s Quality of Life Unit for the next year.

Police launched the Quality of Life Unit, which acts as their arm for homelessness outreach, in early 2018 using part of a $750,000 grant from the Virginia-based International Association of Chiefs of Police. That grant will end this fall.

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