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The Power of Trusted Partnerships in Creating a Community of Care

Updated: Mar 28

Prosper Waco Q & A with Commander Jared Wallace, Waco PD

Commander Jared Wallace, Waco Police Department

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to meet Waco Police Commander Jared Wallace, you’ve most certainly experienced his welcoming warmth and easy laughter. It’s evident without him having to say it—though he will—that Wallace simply has a “love of people.”

With 32 years of service as an officer with Waco PD under his belt, being relationally oriented is more than a sentiment; it’s an approach that has influenced both his learning and leadership across the gamut of police detail over the years—from mobile patrol to bicycle patrol to SWAT team to commanding the Community Services Division at Waco PD.

Recently, we sat down with Commander Wallace to hear his reflections on working alongside Prosper Waco over the years, and why partnership and cross-sector collaboration is so powerful when it comes to strengthening our community by more holistically serving the individuals who make it up.

PW: Looking back on your early years as an officer, how did the switch to patrolling by bike shape your perspective on or relationship to the Waco community?

[Wallace]: I’m so thankful that I got the opportunity to move from patrolling in a car to patrolling on a bike because it’s how I learned what policing is really about. Yes, patrolling on a bike is more vulnerable, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to learn about your surroundings because you’re moving slower. You’re able to see everything, hear everything, and smell everything. You have time to connect with people which leads to understanding the neighborhood on a deeper level. I’ve learned that, as an officer and really in most professions, you need to be connected to your community to be successful.


[PW]: How has the Waco Police Department taken a more relational approach to policing in recent years?

[Wallace]: The Neighborhood Engagement Team was first envisioned in 2020 under former Police Chief and current Assistant City Manager Ryan Holt when City Council called for a return to a community-oriented policing process to ensure that our officers really had those neighborhood connections. Under Chief Sheryl Victorian, the approach has really flourished because of her emphasis on relational policing and making every officer contact—even arrests—as positive of an interaction as possible.

A big part of the cultural shift has been about really seeing property owners and individuals in our community as partners in our work. At a foundational level, people desire to flourish and to live in a city that’s flourishing, and we need to hear their voices and insights in order to be able to solve problems effectively in our community, so that’s been a discipline we’ve practiced and are continuing to grow in.

Photo Courtesy of Commander Jared Wallace

And in order to ensure that our officers treat people well, we have to treat our officers well—to give them a voice and empower them to help us in the decision-making when we can too. So, as you might imagine, there’s a lot of listening across the board when it comes to relational policing.

[PW]:  Listening first when it comes to problem-solving is a core value for Prosper Waco as well. You’ve partnered with Prosper Waco through your role at the Waco PD for several years now, since the early days of the organization. Why?

[Wallace]: Waco is a caring community, and we have a lot of people focused on serving the public in their own niches, as a closed system. But in reality all of our social systems are interrelated and interdependent. Policing is one of those entities that’s seen by a lot of people as an entirely closed system, that all we do is arrest. But if all we do is law enforcement, we're only addressing the outcomes of the issues in our community, not the issues themselves. We’ve got to develop these relationships with other sectors and vice versa to better serve the community.

Prosper Waco is a trusted partner across all systems, whether law enforcement, medical care, behavioral health, housing or socio-economic needs. So Prosper Waco is the partner we all want to work with because the organization brings all the right voices to the table and connects people and systems to each other, so that all our work is maximized. 

[PW]: Can you give an example of the impact you’ve seen from this cross-sector community work with Prosper Waco and others?

[Wallace]: The perfect example is our Social Resources Coordination Unit, which started through a partnership with Prosper Waco to address the number of contacts we were having with people suffering from behavioral health issues and the concerns raised from our community. These days there are a lot less in-patient beds to address behavioral health concerns across the nation than there used to be, and there are certainly less beds here in Waco. So Waco PD was very limited as to what our responses could be.

By partnering with Prosper Waco to brainstorm and develop a Social Resources Coordination response, we were able to bring a licensed clinician into the department to help us triage and identify what we could do to reduce the number of contacts that we had with our most frequent systems engagers. Frequent systems engagers are individuals who are constantly either being arrested or sent to the hospital ER. Ironically, the majority of calls we get in policing are not related to burglaries or violence, as people might think. By far the most common issues we’re dealing with are disturbances or people who are experiencing mental health crises or are trespassing, intoxicated, or engaged in disorderly conduct. So the question became: How can we use community resources more efficiently while, at the same time, provide more effective support for individuals in crisis?

Through this partnership with Prosper Waco—where a social worker was working proactively in the lives of the frequent systems engagers and connecting them to resources instead of the default response option of constant arrests or hospitalization—we were able to have a dramatic impact on our frequent systems engager numbers. Not only were we able to reduce the number of contacts with the same individuals, we were able to change lives.

One of our frequent systems engagers was unique because she was not the type of person you would think fit the profile of someone who was constantly in contact with the police.  She was an 86-year-old female who called the police almost nightly. We asked our Social Resources Coordinator to help.  She was able to learn the elderly female suffered from “sundowners” as part of her Alzheimer's but the family member she lived with worked the night shift and was away from the house each night police were called. Our Social Resources Coordinator was able to assist by getting the elderly female connected to home health care at night. The police response to that one community member went from a total of 1667 minutes of service in the year preceding intervention to only 66 minutes post-intervention. This whole time, a crime was never committed, yet we couldn’t simply stop responding to her calls to 911. It’s difficult for a patrol officer on the night shift to solve problems such as this. Working with Prosper Waco to bring a licensed clinician into the police department to facilitate cross-sector support helps us better serve our community and manage our resources.

PW: How are you hoping to see this collective impact approach expand in our work together in the future?

[Wallace:] We need trusted partners, like Prosper Waco and others from across the city in the room and around the table for all the work addressing social determinants of health and crime prevention to be aligned and successful. It doesn't just stop with the calls we’re getting around mental health. We also need to focus on other social determinants like housing and youth services together. And we have to find ways to continue to work collectively to maximize the efforts of all our various organizations and expertise, all for the wellbeing of our neighbors and community.

Charis Dietz

Director of Marketing & Communications


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