February 6, 2021

DEFUND THE POLICE:

In the first six months of health care professionals replacing police officers, no one they encountered was arrested: DPD Chief Pazen, who is fond of the STAR program, says it frees up officers to do their jobs: fight crime. (David Sachs, Feb. 02, 2021, dENVERITE)

A young program that puts troubled nonviolent people in the hands of health care workers instead of police officers has proven successful in its first six months, according to a progress report.

Since June 1, 2020, a mental health clinician and a paramedic have traveled around the city in a white van handling low-level incidents, like trespassing and mental health episodes, that would have otherwise fallen to patrol officers with badges and guns. In its first six months, the Support Team Assisted Response program, or STAR, has responded to 748 incidents. None required police or led to arrests or jail time.

The civilian team handled close to six incidents a day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, in high-demand neighborhoods. STAR does not yet have enough people or vans to respond to every nonviolent incident, but about 3 percent of calls for DPD service, or over 2,500 incidents, were worthy of the alternative approach, according to the report.

STAR represents a more empathetic approach to policing that keeps people out of an often-cyclical criminal justice system by connecting people with services like shelter, food aid, counseling, and medication. The program also deliberately cuts down on encounters between uniformed officers and civilians.

"This is good stuff, it's a great program, and basically, the report tells us what we believed," said Chief of Police Paul Pazen. Pazen added that he doesn't want to sound flippant, but the approach was somewhat of a known quantity because he's been talking about it with advocates for mental health and criminal justice reform for years. Denver just so happened to launch the program in the middle of a movement against police violence.

Pazen's goal is to fill out the alternative program so that every neighborhood can use its services at all hours, instead of just weekdays during normal business hours. Nearly $3 million for more social workers and more vans should help Denver move toward that "North Star" this year, Pazen said. The money is expected to come from the city budget and a grant from Denver's sales-tax-funded mental health fund.

Posted by at February 6, 2021 6:17 PM

  

« hISTORY eNDS EVERYWHERE: | Main | DID DONALD EVEN EXIST?: »