Behind the crime tape: Cincinnati police social worker helping those impacted by crime
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - When crime scene tape goes up it’s easy to see Cincinnati police officers, but close by is the department’s social worker, Karen Rumsey.
For the past eight years, Rumsey has been a part of the Cincinnati Police Department working as a health program manager and witness advocacy.
Rumsey says it is a program that started from the Collaborative Agreement and has expanded over the years.
“Our goal is to be on as many scenes with as many families as we can because people don’t really understand what’s happening at that moment, Rumsey explained. “Emotions are high and intense. You have police officers and tape and it just feels as though your loved one is on that side. And, and here you are, you can’t be with them.”
Rumsey and her team help to de-escalate the tension on the scene as well as keep the family of the victims informed.
Although she helps families and witnesses cope with the trauma they experienced, she says it can be tough.
“Like the cries of a mother with her child under a sheet is riveting like you don’t forget it, you don’t walk away from it,” Rumsey says. “They live with it every day but a professional that cry tears my soul apart.”
To help end the cycle of violence, she now pours her energy into young survivors.
In 2019, Rumsey started an Emmy-winning documentary project “Shoot This Not That.”
The project puts cameras in the hands of kids instead of weapons allowing them to document the pain they experienced after violence impacted their life.
“When kids are impacted by violence, the research says if you don’t have some kind of intervention in place they could be your next victim,” Rumsey explained. “They’re more at risk to be in the juvenile justice center themselves. They have a lot of anger, so we try to give them outlets. We try to give them healthy outlets and we want to make them young leaders in the community amongst their peers.”
Rumsey says coming from an adopted family and not feeling like she had a voice of her own drew her to social work so she could help others battling trauma.
Her work doesn’t end when the crime scene tape comes down.
Rumsey shows up the day of the crime and continues to check on families as long as she’s needed.
“I just don’t want people to suffer alone and in silence, so anything that I can do to bridge that gap I’m going to do,” said Rumsey. “I don’t know when it ends. Like really I’m 60 now, I know I don’t look it, laughing that’s the good part, but I’m not ready to stop yet.”
In 2019, Rumsey won the Best Social Worker of the Year award given by the National Association of Social Workers.
She tells us she now has about five people working in the Witness Advocacy Unit, including interns.
Her hope is that they expand the program in the future.
This story is part of a weekly segment called Breaking Through.
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