Oakland’s Plan to Shift Calls Away from Police Should Go Even Further

Oakland’s Plan to Shift Calls Away from Police Should Go Even Further


The Point

Oakland plans to shift mental health crisis response from police to a new civilian unit within its fire department. This new pilot—MACRO—should be expanded to further minimize the role of armed police officers in responding to people who need medical attention or are struggling with homelessness. 

Oakland has the opportunity to build a model crisis response system:

Police are ill-equipped and ill-suited to address many of the reasons why people call 911: 

  • Dispatching armed law enforcement to deal with mental and behavioral health emergencies can have devastating consequences. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely than other civilians to be killed by police. 
  • Police interactions often lead to citations, arrests, fines, and incarceration—not the care and treatment people actually need. Police are the wrong response to individuals experiencing houselessness and substance use issues.  
  • Deploying medics, crisis counselors, social workers, peer advocates, and trained civilians as community-based emergency first responders better serves the needs of individuals in crisis.

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