When Compassion Works Instead Of Force: Denver Saving Lives By Sending Health Care Teams to Non-Criminal Calls
- The city of Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) has been effective that majority of their calls come from their fellow police officers who ask for assistance.
- Instead of sending police officers to low-level incidents, the city of Denver sends health care workers.
- The program has clothing, food, cleaning supplies, and blankets in their vans instead of guns.
The city of Denver has introduced a program that sends out a health care team instead of cops for non-criminal calls. And it is proving to be a safer way to respond.
Last June, the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) was launched to respond to low-level incidents. The calls include mental health crises, welfare checks, trespassing, and uniformed officers who asked for assistance, among others. The mobile teams of health care workers instead of police officers is an innovation that has gotten a largely positive response from the community.
There were no arrests or jail-time for these calls. Denver Police Department chief Paul Pazen said, “This is good stuff, it’s a great program, and basically, the report tells us what we believed.”
According to Dr. Matthew Lunn, DPD program member and strategic initiatives coordinator, 34% of the STAR calls were assist calls from officers already engaged in an incident. This means that other police officers have faith in the program and use it.
Dr. Lunn who is the author of the report said, “I think it shows how much officers are buying into this, realizing that these individuals need a focused level of care.”
According to the STAR, 61% of the individuals they have encountered had mental health issues based on their assessment of their behavior and initial contact. Homelessness or substance abuse made up 33%.
Inside STAR vans are not weapons of war but for care: food, clothing, blankets, cleaning supplies, and cleaning supplies.
The response has been heartwarming that the initial funding of $1.4 million for the service’s expansion has been matched by the Caring for Denver foundation! This would mean expansion of the program and more supplied vans. As well as professional manpower to allow 8-hour shifts, 24/7.
Chief Pazen says this will allow the police department to focus on police issues. “We have more than enough work with regards to violent crime, property crime, and traffic safety, and if something like STAR or any other support system can lighten the load on mental health calls for service, substance abuse calls for service, and low-level issues, that frees up law enforcement to address crime issues,” Pazen added.
This might just be the counter move to the protests against the police with the Black Lives Matter movement. Compassion does work.