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Decision Points for Jurisdictions

Designing a Reimagined System

How can we redesign our first response systems to address community needs better and reduce over-reliance on police? We have identified four areas of development a jurisdiction must engaged in to design and implement an alternative response program.

Click through each stage below for a design road map that provides background, context, and suggestions to help guide decision-making. Throughout, we provide links to additional information and real-world examples.

We hope this road map will help you get started!

1. Engage the community

Reimagining public safety must be centered on community values, needs, and goals. Jurisdictions must take the time to understand residents’ public safety priorities and concerns of the community. Jurisdictions must also be open and transparent about plans to incorporate the community in the design process, including what the role of the community will be on an ongoing basis. Even the best of intentions can go astray if programs are designed without consulting the people who will be affected by them most.

2. Scope the program

Following community engagement, the next step is scoping the program – determining its basic purpose, structure, features, and capabilities. Certain decisions and processes must clearly be made, such as when and where the program will operate, and what types of community issues it will address. Others may not be as obvious but should not be overlooked, such as thoughtfully articulating high-level and specific program goals, mapping neighborhood assets, considering the role of the police, and planning ahead for program evaluation.  

3. Focus on dispatch

Described as the “black box” of first response, call taking and dispatch processes are complicated but essential to get right. To set programs up for success, jurisdictions must consider how responders will be dispatched to community issues, including the local 911 call center’s staffing and capacity, dispatch software limitations, data sharing concerns, and more. Without a thoughtfully planned and well-coordinated call taking and dispatch function, many models will encounter serious challenges and be unable to reach their full potential.

4. Define the responders

There is broad agreement that many community issues do not require the presence of an armed officer. But if not the police, then who? Once a jurisdiction has determined what it is trying to achieve with its programming, operation, and systems, it is time to dig into specifics about the responders: who will do the work, with what training and equipment, and under what authority?