Albuquerque will use social workers to respond to certain 911 calls instead of police

Monday, Democrat Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor Tim Keller tweeted:

Today, we’re announcing a first of its kind concept for our city – a civilian public safety branch.

According to a press release:

Albuquerque Community Safety (ACS) will include trained professionals such as social workers, housing and homelessness specialists, violence prevention and diversion program experts. The department will give 9-1-1 dispatch an option when a community safety response is more appropriate than a paramedic, fire-fighter, or armed police officer. The City will be working with community members, experts and City Councilors over the next two months to map out the details of the department, which will reallocate millions of dollars. These efforts will bolster expanded investments in violence intervention, diversion programs and treatment initiatives.

“While many cities are only now waking up to these issues, Albuquerque is well into its police reform process and we decided to tackle these tough questions head on when we took office. For years, we’ve heard the public calling for a better solution for de-escalation and more officers for community policing, and we have been listening. It’s time we stop asking officers to do everything, and time we get people the help they need instead of sending armed officers to knock on their door,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “We’re creating a third branch of first responders – alongside our police and fire departments – to deliver a civilian public health approach to public safety. Through the Albuquerque Community Safety department, we’re creating an innovative model that reflects our city’s current situation. We want to send the right resource to the right call—especially where a social worker or trained professional can connect people with the services they need, instead of simply taking folks to jail or the hospital, which have been the only choices until now.”

Per TheHill, the new group, called Albuquerque Community Safety, will respond to 911 calls about homelessness, intoxication, drug use, addictions and mental health.

Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier said, according to The Washington Post, that his officers are “relieved” by the creation of the new department, which would help lighten officers’ workload, and called it a “solution” to police departments that are overwhelmed with calls and cases.

The change comes in response to calls to “defund the police” after Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody.

Multiple cities across the country as well as the federal government are working to update policies and respond to the nationwide protests calling for change to law enforcement practices. Many have suggested the use of social workers and specialized medics as first responders to help prevent police calls from escalating and turning violent, and several other U.S. cities have implemented such changes.

On Monday, the New York Police Department announced that it was ending the use of certain plain-clothes officers.

President Trump is also planning to announce an executive order on police reform on Tuesday.