Police Chief Magazine
Retired Chief Ronnie Roberts writes about his experience as a young officer in Eugene, OR, where the CAHOOTS program debuted. As the program rolled out, “Patrol got fewer and fewer calls about people experiencing drug addictions, mental health crises, or homelessness… The presence of CAHOOTS freed up officers to focus on the real police work they were trained to do.” He acknowledges that accepting help from community members can be difficult at first – much like “hugging the cactus” – but that it ultimately restores community-police trust and makes the community safer.
Later, as Chief of the Olympia Police Department, WA, Roberts helped implement the CAHOOTS model in his new post, too. Over the course of the first six months, officers quickly realized the value gained by partnering with the community responders. Roberts estimates that 25% of calls to 911 were diverted to the community responders, who also took some calls via their direct line. Only 1% of all community responder situations required police presence. He ends with these questions: “Instead of debating whether or not a city should bring in civilian responders, police departments and social services partners should focus on how civilian responders can best serve the city. What call types are most frustrating for officers because they know they aren’t the right responders? Which institutions generate large call volumes that could potentially be handled by civilians? (In Olympia’s case, it was transit and libraries.) What are the service gaps that create revolving doors, and which stakeholders need to sit down together to address them?”
“In Eugene, Oregon, a successful crisis-response program has reduced the footprint of law enforcement—and maybe even the likelihood of police violence.” CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets) is one of the longest-running and most successful civilian responder programs in the United States. The program succeeds in large part because it relies on trained peers to provide appropriate interventions in crisis.
Northampton Policing Review Commission, 3/10/21 (43 min)
Tim Black is head of consulting and outreach for White Bird Clinic in Eugene, OR, which operates the Mobile Crisis and Medic response program for Eugene-Springfield’s Public Safety System as part of CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets). In this conversation with Northampton’s Policing Review Commission, Tim discusses the history of CAHOOTS’ mobile crisis-response team and how it became such a critical service provider in the region.
This video is an excellent resource for city officials concerned about the challenges of implementing new programs. Topics include: start-up costs, funding sources, how to start small and scale up over time, how to build a relationship with the police so that they trust the team to take responsibility for certain calls, and how the White Bird Clinic operates organizationally.
Trevor Noah Show (6 min)
CBS News (3 min)