Civilian response considered for lower priority 911 calls

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Members of Evanston’s Social Services Committee discussed at its Wednesday night meeting about partnering with two national nonprofits to create a new alternative response system for less urgent 911 calls.

LEAP Community Advocate Model Credit: Alex Harrison

Council Member (5th Ward) Bobby Burns presented two proposed agreements to the committee, one with the Law Enforcement Action Partnership and the other with FUSE Corps. Both were developed at the Reimagining Public Safety committee, where Burns chairs the small working group called “Rethinking Organizational Structure.”

Together, the two nonprofits would help the city implement a system to redirect 911 calls for less dangerous calls, such as nuisance complaints and wellness checks, to civilian responders rather than to sworn policemen.

The Leap Community Advocate Model

LEAP is an advocacy organization of police officers, judges and other law enforcement experts that focuses on “criminal justice and drug policy reforms that will make our communities safer and more righteous,” according to its website. Program specialist Lionel King and speaker Mike Hilliard presented the organization’s Community Responder model to the committee via Zoom.

The model would create a new group of unarmed and unsworn personnel to take over from the police the responsibility of responding to calls not related to a “serious crime”. Hilliard, a retired police major from Baltimore, said it would not only create a more appropriate response to calls that staff would cover, but also reduce the workload of overworked police officers.

“As many of you know, police departments are overwhelmed by understaffing and expanded responsibilities,” Hilliard said. “We see community intervention programs as a way to take some of the pressure off the police and allow them to focus on more serious crimes.”

The model’s potential overlap with Trilogy Behavior Healthcare’s First Response Alternative Crisis Team (FACT) was discussed, as Board Member Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, shared that FACT is “ready to operate 24 hours a day. 24, 7 days a week at the end of the month”. A major difference between the two is that, although FACT currently relies on a separate 911 helpline, the community responder model would have 911 dispatchers routing the appropriate calls directly to civilian responders.

Revelle pointed out that FACT responders have “very different expertise and skill sets” from the proposed community responders and asked if the two would be lumped together in the proposal.

Council Member Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, sits on the dais during Wednesday’s Social Services Committee meeting. Credit: Alex Harrison

“It’s not meant to replace, disrupt, or slow down anything Trilogy does,” Burns replied. “If anything, this is just to add to our response to the various calls for service and to continue our efforts to find alternatives to the police response, where appropriate.”

The partnership would include three phases: first, a needs assessment based on stories of 911 calls and existing systems in the city and community; second, a design process that gathers input from community members and stakeholders, city officials, police, and 911 dispatchers to create a program plan for Evanston; and finally, program implementation and roll-out.

The resolution was passed unanimously and will be presented to full City Council on September 12th.

Recruitment of FUSE Executive Fellows

While LEAP will provide the framework and analysis for this proposed system, the leadership scholarship organization FUSE Corps will provide the brawn and brains to implement it.

The agreement with FUSE would provide the city with an “executive companion” for one year to help manage and implement alternative 911 response projects with LEAP and the Public Safety Reinvention Committee. Nicole Richardson, director of strategic partnerships at FUSE, told the committee on Zoom that their fellows are executive-level experts with 15 to 20 years of experience in their fields, and are hired to be “laser-focused” on one area. specific project for the local government that hires them.

“A lot of times, FUSE fellows are in a position of project management, taking the lead, taking on a new field of work, an emerging field,” Richardson said. “So that’s a role these fellows are used to playing, because of that executive search where we can find exactly the skills you need.”

Burns added that while the city has yet to officially partner with FUSE, a preliminary project description released by the organization has generated 45 to 50 interested applicants for the Public Safety Reinventing Committee Fellowship.

He said the committee would benefit greatly from the expertise of an executive member, as “too often” the city’s ambitious projects don’t have staff assigned to implement them.

“We pretend we want to do transformative work and have a big impact, and then we have one or zero staff dedicated to it,” Burns said. “It’s all about matching our people to what we say we want to do in those areas. That’s all there really is on every level, whether it’s climate action, housing, or our public safety work. »

The committee approved the deal by a 3-to-1 vote, with Revelle voting no. It will also be presented at the city council meeting on September 12.

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