Police Can Make a Crisis Worse. The Public Needs Alternatives in an Emergency.

“They’ll just end up arresting me.”

“I’m just scared they’ll ask for my papers.”

“What if they think my boy is an adult and rough him up?”

We’ve heard various versions of these fears many times in our personal lives, as a Latino man and Black womanIn our professional roles as professors teaching about race and racism in society. While the fear that causes someone to avoid the police — whether a fear of racism, deportation, homophobia, sexual violence or some combination thereof — may vary between our communities, the underlying question is always the same: If I call the police, will the outcome be worse than the problem I am trying to address?

Many people are afraid to call the police, even if they have legitimate reasons. Many fear that calling the police could be a quick and easy way for someone living in immigrant communities to call them or their family. wind up deported. Others, particularly in African American communities fear that calling the police might lead to their own arrest. victimizationBy police. Police may escalate violence already experienced by domestic violence survivors. situation– if their story is believed at all. Many bystanders worry about calling the police in the midst of national discussions about racism and police-perpetrated violent crime. an accompliceto violence against law enforcement officers based on race. And sometimes, folks are so worried about the police showing up first to an emergency that they won’t even call 911 when other services — like EMT services after a vehicle accident — are needed.

Research It has continuedHealth organizations continue to speak out in support of the claims made by communities for decades. The American Public Health Association is the largest organization of professionals in public health in the United States. statementNovember 2018: Law enforcement violence was cited as a critical issue in public health. This causes more than a thousand deaths each year, with disproportionate losses among those of color.

Fearing the police doesn’t mean you don’t have someone to call in an urgent situation.

Non-police response programs were created in response to growing awareness of biases in the police system. Examples are in Austin, Texas; Eugene, Oregon; San Francisco, CaliforniaAnd Edmonton, Canada. Although these programs may differ in their objectives, they all aim to divert people away from law enforcement, decrease emergency department admissions, and provide services like conflict mediation, welfare checks and non-emergency treatment and referrals.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, plans to create its own program to join the list. Ann Arbor City Council approved $3.5million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to create an unarmed, nonpolice response to emergency situations. The city council’s decision was inspiring — a testimony to the desire of our community to have a care-based response at the core of our city services. There were many who submitted public comments. supportKaveh Ashtari (a public health student, and medical assistant) was unarmed. told councilors:

Trust is one of many lasting effects of COVID-19. I’ve worked with individuals who don’t feel comfortable accessing emergency services during critical times due to fear of escalation, due to fear of violence, due to fear of their own safety. This fear is real. This is why an alternative solution is needed to ensure that people feel safe. One that is unarmed and that the community can trust..

Ann Arbor’s efforts to provide unarmed assistance have been dominated by the Coalition for Re-envisioning Our Safety(CROS), with whom our organization is affiliated. CROS is a multiracial community group that includes social workers, public health specialists, faith leaders, community builders, as well as community leaders. othersThey have used advocacy, research, and community organizing to help them develop a planFor an unarmed, nonpolice response.

The plan’s key components include that the unarmed response program must be supported politically and be funded by the city government. It should also be independent from the criminal legal system. It should expand beyond its sole focus on mental health care in times when it is needed. This plan does not replace 911 or policing, but it is an additive plan, offering a range of services. AnotherOption for those who are concerned that a 911 call could lead to excessive police presence. Like other successful plans the CROS plan draws on. empirical researchCommunity-driven leadership is a priority.

President Joe Biden’s 2023 budget allocates an additional $30 billion to new police SpendingReports show that more cities are using American Rescue Plan Act funds to increase their police force. These dollars could have been used to support child care, student loan debt reduction or even provide emergency assistance. additional COVID-19 testsFor those who do not have insurance. Instead, these funds will support further surveillance, bias trainings or community policing — all practices that have alreadyIt has been proven ineffective in addressing racial inequalities in policing. What’s needed is not more funding for policing but more funding for alternatives to police responses. For example, instead of using ARPA funds to expand a city’s police department, cities could opt to use ARPA funds for planning grants to apply for mobile crisis intervention servicesMental health support in place of campus policeAffordable housing is an option for students reduce recidivism, or any other community-based services.

The data are convincing: Care-based safety programs aren’t just more humane, they create significant cost savings in health care, policing and legal feesReduce the need for an ambulance or emergency room services — costs that often otherwise fall on taxpayers. Non-police alternatives can also prevent violence, deportation, or entrapment in the legal system. Everybody, regardless of their relationship with the police should have someone to call in an emergency.

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