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The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on a new emergency response model to use non-law enforcement agencies to respond to non-violent calls for service.

Council Member Herb Wesson writes on Facebook, “We have gone from asking the police to be part of the solution, to being the only solution for problems they should not be called on to solve in the first place.”

Other cities have similar programs either led by volunteers, or pilot programs funded by the cities themselves.

Los Angeles Model

The LA Times reports it’s unclear how large the new response team would be, but in a statement, council members cast the program as part of an effort to reimagine public safety and reduce unnecessary police interactions.

Wesson says, “The presenters from Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles, BLD PWR, L.A. Voice with #PeoplesBudgetLA were absolutely right, we need to reimagine public safety in the 21st century. One which reduces the need for armed police presence, especially when the situation does not necessarily require it.”

“We’ve given this responsibility to law enforcement but, more often than not, in non-emergencies they may not be best equipped to safely handle the situation,” says Wesson. “These calls need to be directed to workers with specialized training who are better equipped to handle the situation.”

The LA city council voted 14-0-1 to approve the model.

Jerretta Sandoz, vice president of the union’s board of directors, said Tuesday that the union agreed that “not every call our city leaders have asked us to respond to should be a police response.”

“We are more than willing to talk about how, or if, we respond to noncriminal and nonemergency calls so we can free up time to respond quickly to 911 calls, crackdown on violent crime, and property crime and expand our community policing efforts,” Sandoz said.

Today I, alongside my colleagues, will introduce a motion to replace LAPD officers with unarmed, non-law enforcement…

Posted by Councilmember Herb J. Wesson, Jr. on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Oregon “CAHOOTS” Program

Los Angeles is also looking north to a program in Oregon.

CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) provides mobile crisis intervention 24/7 in the Eugene-Springfield metro area.

According to their website, CAHOOTS is dispatched through the Eugene police-fire-ambulance communications center through the region’s non-emergency phone number.

Each team consists of a medic (either a nurse or an EMT) & a crisis worker (who has at least several years experience in the mental health field). CAHOOTS provides immediate stabilization in case of urgent medical need or psychological crisis, assessment, information, referral, advocacy & (in some cases) transportation to the next step in treatment. CAHOOTS offers a broad range of services, including but not limited to:

  • Crisis Counseling
  • Suicide Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention
  • Conflict Resolution and Mediation
  • Grief and loss
  • Substance Abuse
  • Housing Crisis
  • First Aid and Non-Emergency Medical Care
  • Resource Connection and Referrals
  • Transportation to Services

Sacramento M.H. First team

According to CapRadio, The M.H. First team launched in January as an effort of Anti Police-Terror Project Sacramento. The goal is to create a community response to people in mental health crisis, so law enforcement doesn’t show up and potentially escalate the situation.

According to the group’s Facebook page, “MH First provides mental health crisis response, domestic violence safety planning, and substance use and mental health support and destigmatization. Our three person team will use de-escalation techniques, non-punitive and life affirming interventions, safety planning and accompaniment to provide community members with much needed services.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg just proposed using $5 million from the city’s general fund to create a group of non-law enforcement officials to handle mental-health related 911 calls.

“Why is it when a family member is in crisis, that the only recourse in society is to call 911?” Steinberg said on CapRadio’s Insight. “We put our officers in situations that they are not adequately prepared for and because they have weapons, put others in danger.”

Fresno Mayor Response

Despite the Los Angeles City Council only being in the early stages, GV Wire℠ asked Fresno Mayor Lee Brand for his thoughts about that type of approach here.

“The police reform commission will be investigating many different improvements for how our police department operates and will be bringing us recommendations in about 90 days,” said Brand. “Chief Hall and I look forward to an open and authentic conversation of those recommendations.”

During GV Wire’s Tuesday night “Unfiltered” Facebook Live discussion about race issues in the city of Fresno, Fresno State NAACP President D’Aungillique Jackson proposed an idea to shift resources to more mental health needs. Jackson suggested eliminating School Resource Officers from schools and diverting that money into community programs.

“You can, in their place, create something along of an actual community policing model,” said Jackson.

Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau and Fresno Police Officers’ Association president Todd Frazier pushed back on that idea, but supported looking at ways to improve relations in the community. Councilman Mike Karbassi said Fresno schools should keep officers on campus, while also funding other community needs.

You can watch the entire discussion here.

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