there's already an alternative to calling the police A 31-year-old program in Eugene, Oregon, is a model in de-escalating situations that could end with law enforcement violence.
As citizens across the country fill the streets to protest police killings of Black people, the violent response from law enforcement has added urgency to a national conversation about police brutality. Pressure is mounting to reform or abolish police departments. City officials in Western urban centers like Los Angeles are reducing police budgets — L.A.’s currently totals $1.8 billion — and reinvesting in underfunded social initiatives. Minneapolis City Council members pledged in June to disband its police department entirely. As cities look for what’s next, there is already a proven system of de-escalation for the high volume of mental health calls that police respond to, which often end in violence.
Mobile, community-based crisis programs employ first responders that are not police to address disturbances where crimes are not being committed. One of the nation’s longest-running examples is CAHOOTS — Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets — in Eugene, Oregon. CAHOOTS has inspired similar programs in other cities in the region, including the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland and Portland Street Response in Oregon.
Such programs take police out of the equation when someone is going through a mental health crisis, struggling with substance abuse, or experiencing homelessness. When police show up, situations can escalate, and the use of force can be disproportionate, especially towards Black people; a 2016 study estimated that 20% to 50% of fatal encounters with law enforcement involved someone with a mental illness. Advocates say the CAHOOTS model shows those encounters aren’t inevitable: Less than 1% of the calls that CAHOOTS responds to need police assistance. The CAHOOTS system relies on trauma-informed de-escalation and harm reduction, which reduces calls to police, averts harmful arrest-release-repeat cycles, and prevents violent police encounters To read the rest of this article click here:.https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.7/public-health-theres-already-an-alternative-to-calling-the-police