Mayor Chris Beutler today will present the Mayor's Award of Excellence for May to Police Officer Luke Bonkiewicz of the Lincoln Police Department's (LPD) Southeast Team. The award will be presented at the beginning of today's City Council meeting at 3 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 555 S. 10th St. The monthly award recognizes City employees who consistently provide exemplary service and work that demonstrates personal commitment to the City.
Bonkiewicz has worked for the City since 2011, and was nominated by Police Sergeant John Walsh in the categories of customer relations and productivity for a study he conducted regarding the LPD mental health referral program.
Bonkiewicz approached Sgt. Walsh last fall of 2013 about an idea he had for a Problem Oriented Policing (POP) project. He wanted to complete a scientific study of LPD's referral program involving the Mental Health Association of Nebraska or MHA.
Bonkiewicz makes a large number of referrals to MHA and wanted to confirm the positive effect it was having on those with mental health issues. His plan was to obtain information from LPD reports about the people who had been referred to MHA and to compare police contacts six months prior to referral and six months after. He would then develop a list that included self-reported mental health diagnoses, number of arrests, mental health investigations, and reports that the person had been victimized. The final step was to use a computer program to calculate the results.
For two months, Bonkiewicz flexed his shift hours to start compiling data. A UNL intern helped him review the experiences of more than 150 people who had been referred to MHA by LPD and had accepted services from MHA. They then reviewed the police reports for more than 700 people who had been the subject of a mental health investigation in the City.
His detailed 31-page report showed that the referral program was helping those with mental illness. It found that those who accepted help from MHA were 16 to 22 percent less likely to be arrested. They were also less likely to be the subject of a mental health investigation six months after the referral. In addition, the referral program also helped reduce the number of times a party may be placed into Emergency Protective Custody. By helping those with mental health issues, the program reduced the number of contacts that police officers had with those who had been referred to MHA.
Walsh wrote, "The study helps to validate the referral program and has been used as a reminder to officers and those in the community of the value of the relationship developed between LPD and MHA. Officer Bonkiewicz's efforts went well beyond the normal scope of a POP project."
The research project helped the MHA receive a grant from the Community Health Endowment, and the study has been submitted to several police publications.
The other categories in which employees can be nominated are loss prevention, safety and valor. Consideration also may be given to nominations that demonstrate self-initiated accomplishments or those completed outside of the nominee's job description. All City employees are eligible for the Mayor's Award of Excellence except for elected and appointed officials.
Individuals or teams can be nominated by supervisors, peers, subordinates and the general public. Nomination forms are available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: hr) or from department heads, employee bulletin boards or the Human Resources Department, which oversees the awards program. All nominations are considered by the Mayor's Award of Excellence Committee, which includes a representative with each union and a non-union representative appointed by the Mayor. Award winners receive a $50 gift certificate, a day off with pay and a plaque. All monthly winners and nominees are eligible to receive the annual award, which comes with a $250 gift certificate, two days off with pay and a plaque.