Valparaiso Police Chief Jeff Balon has announced the hiring of Samantha Burgett, MSW, as the first Police Social Worker at the Valparaiso Police Department. Burgett obtained her bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from Valparaiso University and her master’s in social work (MSW) from IUPUI.  She has a background in non-profit work, case management, program development and facilitation within the criminal justice system.

The Police Social Worker position grew out of a partnership that started in late 2017 when Chief Balon and Caroline Ban, Program Director and Assistant Professor in the Valparaiso University Social Work Department, joined forces to begin the development of a police social worker program at the Valparaiso Police Department.  This program has been fully funded by HealthLinc, a partner in other programs related to mental health and substance dependencies throughout the community.

The hiring of a social worker is part of an overall wellness initiative Chief Balon has introduced at the Valparaiso Police Department. In addition to the social worker, Chief Balon has also announced that Dr. Dennis Shelby, practitioner at the Psychoanalytic Institute in Chicago and a resident of Porter County, will become the Valparaiso Police Department Internal Mental Health Consultant.  Dr. Shelby will help support officer health and wellness needs.  Dr. Shelby’s background focuses on helping officers deal with traumatic job-related stress.  Dr. Shelby also has a background in law enforcement and will assist with the training and education of officers.  The department also plans to re-institute the Valparaiso Police Department Chaplin Program, which will assist officers and citizens by offering a spiritual component, if it is requested.  

To further enhance overall wellness, the department will strengthen its priority of physical fitness in 2022, the Valparaiso Police Department is establishing a mandatory physical fitness standard for all police officers.