Some cities are exploring how 911 and other dispatching systems can provide public safety alternatives and help shrink the scope of policing.

  • San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that the city’s police department will no longer respond to noncriminal 911 calls and requests for service. Instead, trained unarmed service workers will respond to calls that do not involve violence, including mediating disputes between neighbors and handling issues involving homelessness and school discipline.
  • The Berkeley City Council declared that police will no longer respond to calls related to homelessness or mental health crises, but has yet to determine who will. And instead of police enforcing traffic laws, the city is creating a Department of Transportation to handle traffic enforcement and the issuing of citations. The council will also establish a community safety coalition of city residents and review police responses to service calls for evidence of racial bias in stops and arrests.
  • The city of Albuquerque created Albuquerque Community Safety, a “first-of-its-kind cabinet level department” that is being designed as an alternative to police response for 911 calls related to “homelessness, addiction, mental health, and other issues that do not present an immediate threat to public safety.” The “civilian response” department will feature unarmed personnel with backgrounds including social work, housing, homelessness, diversion, and violence prevention. In the weeks ahead, the city will develop a plan to divert funds from other public safety agencies and make investments to finance the department.
  • In St. Petersburg, Florida, city officials announced plans to fund a Community Assistance Liaison program, which will employ social workers to respond to nonviolent 911 calls related to issues including mental health crises, homelessness, and drug use. The unarmed first responders could begin operating as early as October. The program is funded through a $3.1 million federal grant and $3.8 million in city funding that was originally allocated to hire 25 new officers.