Not all 911 callers want an armed response. New proposal could expand police and mental health
Numerous police reform efforts around the country are trying to improve how law enforcement responds to mental health issues, including projects to create "co-responder" teams of social workers and a new national hotline for people in crisis.
Experts and advocates say police officers are too often called to solve problems better addressed by mental-health workers or paramedics. They say reforms will free police to concentrate on more serious crimes and help prevent many interactions with police from spiraling into violence.
The efforts come after activists' calls to "Defund the Police" have quieted following nationwide demonstrations two years ago. Now, a growing movement is underway to figure out how U.S. police reforms can be centered around mental health.
Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, has proposed legislation aimed at helping more police departments create and fund teams that pair police officers with mental-health workers.
There has previously been a piecemeal effort by police departments large and small to team police officers with mental-health workers. But such a national framework would be new.
The effort would use existing COPS grants — Community Oriented Police Services funding. The grants can be used for a wide variety of local police efforts, and much of the money is available to help communities hire more officers or improve school safety.