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Milwaukee Common Council passes resolution that would create unarmed first responder program

Posted at 8:24 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 13:27:19-04

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Common Council passed a resolution Tuesday that will task the police, fire and health departments with establishing an unarmed program that would respond to situations where nonviolent people are struggling with mental health issues, drug abuse and homelessness.

Council members Chantia Lewis, Nik Kovac and Milele Coggs argue in their resolution that there are situations where armed first responders, such as law enforcement, are not necessary to assist people who do not hold a threat to the public. A different, new approach to those situations is thus necessary, the aldermen argue.

"Traditional models for responding to 9-1-1 calls for service typically dispatch armed law enforcement personnel to most incidents, including those that involve persons that do not present a threat to public safety, but may be experiencing mental health, substance abuse or homelessness crises," according to the resolution, which was proposed in August.

Members of the proposed program would serve people "in crisis," by offering counseling, mediation, transportation and referrals to appropriate social services. The council members hope the emphasis on services, and the lack of weapons involved, would help avoid escalation and lead to better solutions for those in need.

The resolution cites the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon as a model for Milwaukee's proposed program. The council members say the CAHOOTS program has, since 1989, successfully sent mobile teams of unarmed, civilian medics and counselors to 911 calls. The resolution also cites a similar program in San Francisco.

The Milwaukee fire and police departments, with help from the Fire and Police Commission and the Milwaukee Health Department, would take point on creating that interim plan, per the resolution.

The resolution also calls for an alternate non-emergency phone number to be used by the public in lieu of 911.

The Fire and Police Commission would be directed to present the interim master plan to the Common Council within six months of the adoption of the resolution.

Read the resolution here:

MKE Common Council Unarmed ... by TODAY'S TMJ4

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