Riverton Police Chief Mike Broadhead
Part one in a series
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Riverton Police Chief Mike Broadhead recently polled his officers at a staff meeting on what the most important tasks they perform are. It came as no surprise that the officers listed such items as drunk driving and public intoxication enforcement, chasing drugs, animal control and such. Then Broadhead asked the question in a different way. “What about saving the lives of small children?” he asked. Given a second answer, without exception, the officers rated that their number one concern. “But that’s not what everyone said initially,” Broadhead told County10.com in an interview this past week.
To make saving children more of a top priority in the department, Broadhead has entered untested waters and has created a new position at the RPD, that of a Child Welfare Investigator. In a lateral move, the Chief appointed Detective Jason Cox to serve in that role. Cox will also back up the School Resource Officers at special events, such as games, dances and other school activities.
“We all know where Fremont County stands in all of the state statistics on the health of kids, we’re ranked low or worst in the state,” he said. “Because of the unique communication hurdles we have with multiple agencies involved with child welfare, I’m concerned about kids falling through the cracks.” Broadhead said he thought about what happens to a child or children after an officer leaves the scene of a domestic case, or a family just doesn’t care. “Who gets left out of the equation,” he asked. ”It’s the kid.”
As a police officer, our focus is on what is happening today. But when there are kids in the homes we are called to, no one has the time to go back and see if the kid is okay the next day. If a child is in imminent danger, we can deal with that, but we’re not set up to deal with a child in unhealthy living conditions. Nothing gets changed for the kids.” Until now. ”When an officer goes to a domestic call and sees a kid there and the conditions are not good, they’ll refer that family to this officer. We’ll now have the time and tools to do something about it. He’ll follow-up and go back to the home with DFS.”
“We never want to take kids away from their families, that’s always a goal, but now we’ll have more of a hammer to coordinate an appropriate response,” he said.
Broadhead said he’s looking ahead to when the children grow up. “Right now, the kids don’t know that they are growing up in chaos, they think it’s normal. When a uniformed officer shows up at the door and leaves them in that position, that reinforces that it’s normal. But we don’t want to arrest these kids 10 or 15 years down the road. That cycle of family discord goes generationally,” he said. So to combat that, the Child Welfare Investigator will step in and follow-up with the appropriate agencies.
Next in the series: What happens in a worse case scenario?