Daicia Price has seen the social work and law enforcement world from nearly every angle.
Being removed from her mother’s home and placed in foster care through Child Protective Services.
Engaging in the family reunification process.
Spending periods of her teen and adolescent years homeless.
Being arrested and detained for crimes she did not commit.
Experiencing abuse at the hands of an officer.
Seeing family members arrested and charged with crimes they did not commit.
It’s enough to make anyone bitter toward law enforcement, but Price parlayed her experiences — and the support and encouragement of one particular social worker — into a career in which she hopes to mitigate issues between police officers and the general public.
“Five times, myself and my family have been incarcerated for reasons we should not have been, but I still don’t place that on an individual officer,” said Price, clinical assistant professor of social work in the School of Social Work. “I think about where were the gaps in those different pieces, and helping them understand ways they can do policing in a trauma-informed way.”
Price partners with Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network to provide weeklong Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement agencies. Clinicians and officers are involved with the training, and the modules Price focuses on are trauma-informed policing, policing with care, understanding the neuroscience of trauma, and how to work with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The goal of the training is to help officers more properly engage with civilians involved in a mental health crisis, and to look at mental health as a broad spectrum of a state of well-being, rather than a diagnosis of a specific illness. In doing so, officers can better determine when they are responding to someone who poses a threat and someone who does not.
Price said that would have helped in her situations.
About 10 years ago she and a friend attended a function at a Detroit hotel, and the police responded to an incident there. Price, who at that time was a licensed social worker, said she tried to explain to responding officers what happened when one of them “grabbed me, threw me down and handcuffed me.”
Despite the officer injuring her wrist to the point she was taken to the hospital and deals to this day with carpal tunnel syndrome, Price said she was charged with felony resisting arrest. She said she asked that her arrest be reviewed for unnecessary use of force, but the request went nowhere. She ended up pleading to a misdemeanor rather than risk a felony remaining on her record.
Price found her calling as a 20-year-old erroneously charged with domestic violence and sharing a holding cell with a woman of the same age who was detoxing.
“She was just talking about all these things she had been experiencing, how she had engaged with officers and how she ended up there,” she said. “It was kind of like an awakening to me of what I wanted to do next.
“Literally when I did get released, I asked my family to take me straight to Washtenaw Community College to get in school and I was ready to do things. Once I started there, I just kept going after that.”
An Ypsilanti native, Price transferred from WCC to Eastern Michigan University in 1998 and obtained her master’s degree in social work there. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in urban education from Eastern Michigan.
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The confessions of the woman in the holding cell alone could not have set Price along her path. Prior to that, Celeste Hawkins, a social worker at the Ozone House in Ann Arbor, helped Price find shelter when she was homeless and provided support along her journey.
“She was someone who was always there for me in different parts in time in my life,” she said. “After that, it made me think about ways I could help people.”
Police violence against Black individuals occupied much of the nation’s attention over the summer after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of officers. While Price said the additional attention to the need for police training is positive, it’s equally important to note this work has been ongoing in the state for years.
She recently wrapped up the second of two “fish-bowl conversations” between police officials and community members, the latest one conducted on Facebook Live. The next individuals to undergo training are dispatchers, often the first point of contact for people in crisis and the conduit between that individual and responding officers.
“As much as I’ve taught them, I have learned so much about the culture of law enforcement,” she said. “The community needs to have a better understanding of how to call and communicate what they need. Officers have a hard job, and if they’re willing to learn and think about things in a different way, I’m happy to be part of it.
“I really believe in reach out, raise hope and change society.”
What memorable moment in the workplace stands out?
When I completed my presentation/job talk for the clinical professor position, there was an enormous amount of student support for me. I was able to demonstrate my teaching strategies, and many of the students were in attendance. The following year, I was selected by the student union as Teacher of the Year.
What can’t you live without?
My superhero capes, and cups of all different shapes and sizes to keep my coffee and water supply. A hero needs their fuel.
Name your favorite spot on campus.
I know it sounds odd, but my office is my favorite place on campus. I can go on the first floor in the School of Social Work and look at students studying at all times of the day. It’s pretty neat, because students from all disciplines come there for a place to study and work.
What inspires you?
I come from a long line of educators. My mother, Sharon Smith, was a teacher and I grew up seeing her impact on the students she taught. My grandfather Clarence Johnson taught me at a young age that your worth is dependent on the ways that you positively affect others. Knowing that the students I work with will be a part of transforming the world and improving society keeps me going.
What are you currently reading?
“The Love Prison Made and Unmade,” by Ebony Roberts.
Who had the greatest influence on your career path?
Dr. Celeste Hawkins was the social worker that supported me through family challenges, homelessness and poverty. I have attempted to follow in her footsteps. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.