Albuquerque Unveils Plan to Begin Sending Social Workers to Respond to Certain 911 Calls

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Certain 911 calls in Albuquerque, New Mexico will now receive a response from trained, unarmed social workers, housing and homelessness specialists, and violence prevention coordinators rather than police officers as a part of the city’s first-of-its-kind” civilian public safety department.

The new group, called Albuquerque Community Safety, will respond to 911 calls about homelessness, intoxication, drug use, addictions, and mental health.

Democratic Mayor Tim Keller made the announcement on Monday.

“We’ve placed more and more issues on the plates of officers who are not trained — despite their best efforts and despite some training — they’re not totally trained to be a social worker, or to be an addiction counselor, or to deal with things around child abuse when they’re just answering a call,” Keller said in his announcement. “We should have trained professionals do this, instead of folks with a gun and a badge.”

In an infographic shared on Twitter, Keller clarified that the establishment of the Community Safety Department intends to “shift to a public health approach to poverty and trauma” and “[focus] police officers’ time on violent crime,” while “not taking money away from core police work” or “turning away from our city’s crime challenges” or “deprioritizing crime fighting.”

 

According to The Washington Post, Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier said that his officers are “relieved” by the creation of the new department. Geier said he expects the department to lighten officers’ workload and called it a “solution” to police departments that are overwhelmed with calls and cases.

“This is the solution” to overburdened police departments nationwide, Geier told The Post, adding that he’s tired of his officers saying, “There’s nothing we can do.”

“There’s always something somebody can do,” the chief said.

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