Written by: Coalition for Re-envisioning Our Safety (CROS) Washtenaw County
Background: On April 5, 2021 the Ann Arbor City Council passed Resolution 21-0612 directing the City Administrator to Develop an Unarmed Public Safety Response Program by December 2021. The resolution clearly states the need for non-police response to various situations and the intention from The City of Ann Arbor for these situations to be addressed in a safer and more effective way.
Who we are: We are a coalition of community members and groups who came together to respond to the Resolution to ensure a process and program that is community led, evidence-based, and progressive. We are multi-racial and diverse, and many of us are directly impacted by policing in our community. Among us are faith leaders, social workers/therapists, public health and healthcare workers, researchers, community builders, racial justice organizers and activists/organizers who care deeply about transformative justice and building care-based safety in our community. We fully support a non-police/unarmed response and have written an effective proposal that includes the following. We intend to continue working across Washtenaw County and not just one city; due to the specific resolution passed by the City of Ann Arbor, this proposal focuses on Ann Arbor.
A shared analysis: To engage in conversations around policing and unarmed responses, we believe in having shared language, concepts, and facts. This shared analysis includes understanding that: 1) there are expert non-police professionals who should be responding to certain types of crises; 2) “public safety” should mean caring for the well-being of all people with no exceptions; 3) police can cause significant harm to communities; 4) community members should inform and direct the non-police response; 5) the word “violence” includes various forms from systemic (e.g. the cause of hunger and homelessness) to interpersonal (e.g. emotional abuse between two individuals) 6) the expert non-police professionals who respond to crisis must be independent from the criminal legal system; 7) police cannot be re-trained to be something different.
Our Proposal: There are existing models for this type of program across the country that our group has researched. These models show us what has worked and not worked, and invite us to adopt what we believe would fit best for our area. With this, our proposal for a model states that the program must: Be politically supported and funded by city government, and housed and managed within a separate organization or group whose mission aligns with the work Follow a public health approach by ensuring separation from law enforcement and the legal system (e.g. no law enforcement included in response) as well as by expanding beyond solely mental health to issues of conflict, public assistance, transportation and more. Include a separate public phone number (e.g. 311) and dispatch, independent from 911 dispatch; recommendation to include a social worker into 911 dispatch to train how to route accordingly A 2-year (minimum) funded pilot that allows for quality design, implementation and evaluation Selected through an open public RFP process that is informed by community members and experts Includes direction and decisions from a governing board comprised of community members and leaders
Other Models: There are many jurisdictions in the country piloting a model that is funded by their respective government jurisdiction, and are collaborations between that jurisdiction and community resources. Some of models are located in: Eugene, OR; Denver, CO; Olympia, WA; San Francisco, CA; Austin, TX (link to webinar with representatives from some of these models). We, here in Ann Arbor, would be following the leadership of these organizations to learn from them while creating a model that fits our community.
Benefits: There are multiple benefits to this proposed model, such as: 1) it provides a comprehensive mechanism to connect the right resources to the right needs, 2) it won’t overtax or inaccurately use the police department(s); 3) it saves the City and taxpayers an incredible amount of money; and 4) it allows those who are already doing similar work to lead and expand their work.
Budget: An annual budget would total $3 million for 16 staff members (leadership, including crisis intervention workers, harm reduction specialists, paramedics), a separate call center, insurance, technical assistance, and vehicles.