Oakland considers policing model involving civilians responding to specific 911 calls

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – In nationwide unrest over the death of George Floyd, there are growing calls to defund police departments across the country. 

Some protesters seek to disband police departments altogether. 

A different model of policing that involves civilians responding to specific 911 calls is currently under consideration in the city of Oakland.

“One of the calls that dispatch gets regularly is that my child won’t get up and go to school. There is really no reason to respond to that call with a badge and a gun,” Anne Janks, Coalition for Police Accountability, said. 

A little over a year ago the Oakland City Council commissioned the urban strategies council, the police commission and the coalition for police accountability to develop a report on the feasibility to implement what is called the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland program or M.A.C.R.O. 

Anne Janks of the Coalition for Police Accountability describes how it works.

“M.A.C.R.O., the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland is a proposed pilot to respond to some 911 calls in Oakland with a counselor and an EMT instead of police. For the calls that don’t really require a badge and a gun, if they’re responded to by a M.A.C.R.O. type team it enables the police to spend their time on calls that are genuinely criminal or violent in nature,” Janks said. 

Funding for the M.A.C.R.O. program would come out of the city’s public safety budget. 

Instead of hiring licensed clinicians, the program would use specially trained councilors and emergency medical technicians to resolve non-violent police calls for service.

“The thing that makes them very good at their jobs is that they’re very good at deescalation, working with people to find out the best resolution to their own situation and that they’re very good problem solvers,” Janks said. 

The Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland program is based on Eugene Oregon’s Crisis Assistance Helping Out the Streets program which has been working successfully with the Eugene Police Department for the past 30-years. 

Janks says the important thing to note, like Eugene, Oregon’s model, M.A.C.R.O. does not involve abolishing the Oakland Police Department.

“I would say it is definitely a model of re-imagining public safety,” Janks said. 

The M.A.C.R.O. report is scheduled to be presented during the Oakland Police Commission meeting later this week.

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