To reimagine public safety, we must confront the central problem: we ask the police to do too much, and often to perform tasks for which they are unsuited and untrained. Confronting this problem gives rise to a key question:
Which traditional police responsibilities might benefit from alternative response?
Through analyses of calls for service data and conversations with community members and public safety experts, we have developed a map of common issues that are currently handled by police.
Many 911 calls are made to request services or obtain help resolving a conflict, as opposed to reporting a public safety concern. In these cases, police are not necessarily the best responder – and their presence even may exacerbate an already difficult situation. Better outcomes often can be achieved by alternative responders, particularly where factors such as threats of violence or weapons are not present.
For these issues, there are existing or very promising models for non-police response.
For some issues, both police and non-police responders may have an important role to play. For example:
In the next set of issues, we examine the traditional police response and identify the approach that will be most effective at meeting community needs without over-reliance on armed officers.
Some of the problems we currently ask police to assist with are not actually first response issues at all – that is, they do not require an immediate response from a professional trained in handling crises or emergencies. City departments, community-based organizations, and other entities may be more appropriate to address these community issues. Some of these even might involve on-line reporting.