Amid Calls for Police Reform, More Programs Offer Alternatives to Calling 911
Sweeping police reforms are growing in popularity among Americans, according to a recent survey by Reuters and research firm Ipsos. But what will that look like? In some cities it may include cutting down police budgets and reinvesting that money into programs for marginalized communities. NBC's Sarah Dallof reports.
(NBC News) — Sweeping police reforms are growing in popularity among Americans, according to a recent survey by Reuters and research firm IPSOS.
But what will that look like? In some cities it may include cutting down police budgets and reinvesting that money into programs for marginalized communities. In addition, several cities are finding success sending social workers to certain types of emergency calls.
For example, the Support Team Assisted Response, also known as STAR, just launched in Denver, Colorado. It dispatches a clinician and paramedic to behavioral health 911 calls, instead of armed law enforcement.
Denver Justice Project Co-Chair Roshan Bliss helped develop STAR, modeling it after the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon. CAHOOTS has been around for more than 30 years, and last year, responded to 17 percent of the city’s 911 calls. Bliss believes STAR can do the same by de-escalating situations without force and connecting vulnerable citizens with critical resources.
“It’s a more effective response because we’re sending the right people to deal with the right problems,” said Bliss.
In Dallas, Texas, the RIGHT Care Program – a partnership between Parkland Hospital and City Fire and Police – has responded to 6,600 mental health calls since 2018, leading to a drop in arrests in the areas it serves.
“We’ve diverted 30 percent away from jails and busy ERs. We’ve connected over a fifth of those clients to mental health services. Our incarceration rate is less than 4 percent,” said Parkland Health & Hospital System spokesman Kurtis Young.
The RIGHT Care Program is now expanding and could potentially serve as a blueprint outside of Dallas.
Nationwide, the executive order signed by President Trump last week would give departments incentives to bring on experts in mental health, addiction and homelessness.
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