Help! Not Police! Crisis Responses That Avert Police Calls

Cities, court systems, citizen groups, and affordable housing operators are crafting ways of responding to emergencies that reduce the risk of negative police interactions.

July 5, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By LM_Ortiz

Police officer with POLICE on the back of their vest with police car in the background

ALDECA studio / Police officer.

The May 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers galvanized anti-police-violence protesters across the U.S. In the aftermath, many cities and grassroots groups have sought changes, with calls to defund the police and to create and support crisis response methods that cut the chances of unnecessary arrests and police-instigated injuries or fatalities.

Alternative crisis response efforts take varied forms: Some seek to avoid police altogether, others aim to improve police culture with mental health training, still others dispatch mental health experts in concert with police.

For agencies that serve vulnerable populations, practices to avoid unnecessary police action include instilling a de-escalation mindset and cultivating internal crisis teams to handle onsite incidents as unarmed first responders.

Shelterforce explored crisis response practices and checked in with affordable and supportive housing organizations around the U.S. on how they strive to handle incidents at their properties safely.

Avoiding Police Altogether

With growing urgency to bypass police altogether, advocates have created or publicized a variety of guides and resources to non-police response options, as in this 2021 round-up from Vox.

The volunteer-run, donation-funded, launched in June 2020, has assembled a growing set of community-based alternatives to calling police or 911 “when faced with a situation that requires de-escalation and/or intervention, not violence.” Its database now includes more than 80 cities in the U.S. and Canada.

In Oakland, community ambassadors walk the streets of the city’s Chinatown and serve as eyes, ears, and bodies in an era of increasing anti-Asian hate crimes and low trust in police.

CAHOOTS: A Longstanding Police-Clinic Partnership

An oft-cited national model for effective crisis response is Eugene, Oregon’s CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) program, formed more than 30 years ago as a partnership between a counter-culture clinic’s emergency response team and the Eugene Police Department. The program sends a medic and a crisis worker ...

Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Shelterforce Magazine

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