Successful Alternatives to Armed Police Response
Barry Friedman runs New York University’s Policing Project. He points out that police officers are molded from a “one-size-fits-all-model. Police just aren’t trained to do a lot of the things they end up doing. They are trained for force and law. So you get force-and-law results.” The old saying “when you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail” is particularly apt with respect to cops, so some forward-thinking municipalities around the country have stopped sending hammers to every type of emergency service call with unsurprisingly positive results.
Currently, activists across the country have been clashing with cops, sometimes violently. In Eugene, Oregon, a group of activists there have been, literally and actively, in CAHOOTS with cops and have been for 30 years. Citizens in Eugene and neighboring Springfield who report or are suffering from a mental health crisis are responded to by a medic and mental health crisis responder rather than a cop, as members of the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (“CAHOOTS”). CAHOOTS teams handle a full 20 percent of the two cities’ 911 calls at an annual $2.1 million cost. The annual police budget is $9 million.
Colorado is implementing a similar program by having trained mental health professionals accompanying cops responding to mental health crisis calls. These co-responders’ salaries are paid for by money collected by the state for marijuana taxes.
The initials OSS remind many people of the CIA’s forerunner agency but not in New Orleans, Louisiana. A company called On Scene Services now responds to work traffic accident scenes in the Big Easy. Response times by OSS agents is only 90 minutes as compared to over two hours by city cops. This leaves armed police free to handle more serious problems.
In Seattle, Washington, cops are required to divert minor drug offenders and sex workers to addiction counselors and social workers. Six-month recidivism rates are down by 60 percent for those diverted from arrest and jail with annual costs to taxpayers per client averaging only $9,507 versus average annual incarceration costs of $42,000.
Miami-Dade County, Florida, has successfully ideated a way to reduce homelessness and address domestic violence. In 1993, the area imposed an additional one-percent tax on restaurant bills for food and beverages. All revenue would be used toward housing solutions for the county’s homeless population. At present, that population is down by 85 percent from the program’s beginning. Fifteen percent of the tax revenue is allocated to Miami-Dade County for domestic violence centers, which aid victims.
Cooperating with cops instead of confronting them has gone a long way toward reducing negative encounters in these cities; no defunding required or needless animosity generated.