MILWAUKEE — The Common Council unanimously voted to adopt legislation to establish an unarmed first responder program to address calls for service that don't involve a threat to public safety on Oct. 13.
The legislation aims to address concerns of the training models for 911 police calls for service that typically dispatch armed law enforcement personnel to incidents including persons who are not a threat to public safety, including mental health, substance abuse and homelessness issues.
“We recognize that law enforcement personnel may not have the depth of crisis response training and access to social service resources to respond effectively to such situations, and that the addition of armed law enforcement personnel to a non-violent, non-criminal incident too often unnecessarily escalates a situation that can lead to incarceration or other criminal sanctions from an incident that did not initially present a threat to public safety,” said Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, vice chair of the Public Safety and Health Committee.
The next step for the unarmed first responder program is to develop a master plan that sets forth the city's goals a prelude to a final master plan.
The interim master plan will address options for possibly operating in partnership with, or potentially merging with other local emergency response programs, including the City-County Trauma Response Initiative, the Milwaukee Opioid Response Initiative, and the Community Paramedic Integrated Mobile Healthcare Program.
“What we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working and has bogged down police officers on calls involving people in crises, and we need a different approach to responding to situations where individuals are clearly in desperate need of help that shouldn’t involve law enforcement,” said Alderwoman Lewis,