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Alternative Responses To 911 Emergency Calls

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

The fantastic Jessica Rudnik took notes for us on agenda items during the County Board of Supervisors meeting on November 3. The following two agenda items took over 5 hours! THANK YOU JESSICA! Amazing and dedicated volunteers like you make this work possible.

Item 43 - Status Report On Alternative Responses To 911 Emergency Calls

This item pertains to our ongoing monitoring of decision-making surrounding criminal justice reform within the County.

So what happened? Deputy County Executive Bruce Wagstaff provided an update on an alternative to 911 program that the County is developing. In terms of progress, not much has happened. There have been two public listening sessions with broad participation from the community, but nothing really meaningful has happened yet because data from the Sheriff’s Office is still being analyzed. The analysis will determine how many calls received are related to mental health crises and/or incidents with the unhoused population. CAHOOTS from Oregon and STAR from Denver, are two successful 911 alternative programs that are being examined as potential models. Unfortunately at this point there is no actual proposal for what this program will look like, and therefore no proposed budget for it. Wagstaff reported that a proposal would be submitted to the BOS by February 2021.

The community weighs in (a.k.a. the voice of reason)

There has been a good deal of criticism from the community about the development process. The Sheriff’s department has been included in the advisory committee to a much larger degree than either the impacted communities, or Mental Health First (a community organization already doing 911 alternative work). Many people called in demanding the budget line for this program be increased from $1.5 million to $15 million. There were also a great deal of comments made demanding that the program development process center on issues surrounding racial justice, and the fight against police violence on POC. Finally, many callers emphasized the need for the program to be independent from the Sheriff’s department and 911 dispatch.

Board of Supervisors response

Nottoli asked how the community will be engaged with implementation and then full program, emphasizing the importance of meeting community needs.

  • Kennedy reiterated that the alternative program needs to be completely separated from law enforcement, and that we need an easy 3 digit number for people to call for help.

  • Peters was in support of the 3 digit number to call.

  • Frosty Sue advocated that 911 SHOULD be included in these conversations, and that a police officer SHOULD be included in initial dispatches to ensure the safety of medical professionals. She also made a fun comment that people do crazy things on the full moon...

We will continue closely monitoring the development of this program. Thank you again to everyone who contributed our ability to write this piece.

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