Subcommittee on Unbundling Services Currently Delivered by the Police
Status Report of the Subcommittee on Unbundling Services Currently Delivered by the Police Department
This status report provides background on the work and preliminary findings of the City of Alameda’s Subcommittee on Unbundling Services Currently Delivered by the Alameda Police Department. Below, we describe our process and initial impressions. We also provide some modest immediate recommendations designed to keep the door open to an unbundling process.
The Unbundling Subcommittee has met nearly weekly since September. Our members have also participated in meetings of the full Police Reform Committee, consisting of the Steering Committee and all of the sub-committees. Our Chair, Debra Lewis Mendoza, meets regularly with the Steering Committee.
We have sought and obtained a great deal of data and information, including Alameda Police Department (APD) service calls, APD information regarding traffic citations, domestic violence arrests, overdoses and people detained for psychiatric evaluation (pending), AFD information regarding overdoses and people detained for psychiatric evaluation, Community Development Department information regarding social service agreements and reports to the city of Alameda.
We have also sought input and information from individuals outside our sub-committee. On October 29, we had a presentation by Melissa Martin-Mollard, a social worker and researcher with Alameda Family Services, who examined non-police crisis-intervention programs and models. On November 3, we met with Alison DeJung, Executive Director of Eden I & R, which runs the 211 system in Alameda County. On November 4, we met with APD Captain Matthew McMullen who commands the Bureau of Operations and Theresa De La Cruz who is an APD dispatch supervisor. Captain McMullen and Ms. De La Cruz provided great insight into service-call data and dispatch processes.
We have also contacted these local organizations and service providers in order to obtain more information about services offered and their clients’ needs: Alameda Point Collaborative, Alameda Food Bank, Building Futures with Women and Children, Mastick Senior Center, Meals on Wheels, Girls Inc of the Island City, Alameda Family Services, Alameda Boys & Girls Club, Operation Dignity, First Five Alameda, Black Achievers Alliance, Alameda Renters Coalition, Centro Legal de la Raza, A Better Way, Crisis Support Services, Felton Institute, East Bay Agency for Children, Youth Activist of Alameda, and Alameda Education Foundation.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be further analyzing data, hearing directly from the community, and learning more about alternative models.
Several overarching principles have surfaced in our work and will inform our ultimate conclusions and recommendations. First, policing in the United States has a culture and history of racism and excessive force, putting people of color and people with disabilities in particular at risk of injuries or death from excessive force at the hands of armed officers. This history (no matter how present it is in today’s APD) causes great distrust and fear, making encounters fraught, and causing some members of our community to forgo help they need, and results in disproportionate outcomes based on race. Second, individuals are best served when a professional with the proper training is providing the services needed, e.g. a mental health professional, not a police officer nor a firefighter, should be the primary (and sometimes only) responder to a person having a mental health crisis. Third, when police officers respond to calls that could be handled by a different professional, the police officers are pulled away from their primary responsibility of preventing, responding to, and investigating criminal activity.
Our initial impressions of the APD data, which we are still analyzing, is that APD responds with police officers to many calls that can be, and should be, handled by a non-police responder or alongside a non-police responder. Moreover, arrests rates of people of color exceed their proportion of the Alameda population, increasing the potential for negative outcomes for our BIPOC community. In addition, other cities have (or are developing) alternative models that need to be further analyzed to determine whether they fit Alameda’s demographics, needs, geography, and size. Some other models worthy of further study include, but are not limited to:
- Alameda County’s co-responder models in which clinicians respond in conjunction with police officers: Mobile Crisis Team in West Oakland; Mobile Evaluation Team in East Oakland, and the recently-launched Community Assessment and Transport Team (CATT) (contract held by Bonita House);
- Austin-Travis County Emergency Management Services Integral Care’s Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (EMCOT) (24/7 mobile crisis team responding to mental health emergencies);
- BART Crisis Intervention Specialists (civilians with a background in social work who would respond to calls involving people with suspected mental health issues);
- CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR (mobile unit with mental health professional and medic);
- MACRO in Oakland, CA (community representatives responding to individuals in need);
- Mental Health First in Sacramento and Oakland;
- New York City’s Crisis Management: teams of messengers who mediate conflicts on the street and connect high-risk individuals to services;
- Psykiatrisk Akut Mobilitet (PAM) in Stockholm, Sweden;
- Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT) in San Francisco.
There are also programs within police departments, designed to improve the police response to emergencies, such as but not limited to:
- Community Intervention Teams: training focused on increasing officers’ effectiveness by helping them better understand the state of mind of the mentally ill;
- Community Navigator in Minneapolis, MN: community navigators work within the department to strengthen partnerships between the police and specified communities.
In view of the information we have reviewed and the principles just described, we are anticipating that our final report will recommend that:
- APD staffing and budget should be maintained only at the level necessary to properly prevent, respond to, and investigate crime, i.e. the activities that require the training of a police officer;
- Police officers and the APD budget should not be used for other services;
- The City should contract with non-profit or external governmental organization(s) to respond to non-criminal calls for service, such as those related to individuals in crisis (including those with acute or ongoing mental health needs), unhoused individuals, welfare checks, and substance use.
- Analyze incoming calls and implement necessary changes to the 9-1-1 system to redirect calls when services can be provided by other professionals.
We urge the City of Alameda to not await our final report before taking the following actions which will lay the groundwork for reform:
- Increase public outreach regarding 211 and other services to help individuals navigate available social services.
- Advance a dynamic and robust annual assessment of community needs, conducted by individuals outside of APD, using service call data, police dispatch and outcome data, surveys of Alameda residents and visitors, and other community outreach modes.
- Forgo any new or further commitments (either in budgeting or collective bargaining) to or with the City’s public safety agencies and employees until after the police reform process is complete.
- Continue hiring freeze in APD.
- Hire a police chief committed to reform and, in particular, to rooting out bias and use of excessive force in policing, and committed to creating a department characterized in its policies and culture by diversity, equity, and inclusion. Special attention should be paid to candidates traditionally underrepresented in police chief positions.
- Establish a mechanism---such as continuing the work of the Police Review sub-committees---to ensure ongoing community input into the development, implementation, and enduring oversight of the unbundling of police services and the delivery of services by new entities.
These are just preliminary impressions. We will continue to examine the various models and consider the needs of Alameda, and we look forward to working with the community and the city to create service models that are optimized to make Alameda as safe as possible for everyone and to provide all with the services they need.
Please take the community survey here to share your feedback on the subcommittee recommendations. A report of the preliminary recommendations from all five Subcommittees can be downloaded here(PDF, 765KB).