COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The mayor of Ohio’s capital city has proposed spending more than $5 million next year to provide an alternative police response to 911 calls involving mental health and addiction crises.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Tuesday the alternative response program would team paramedics, social workers, and police dispatchers to review the best response to non-emergency 911 calls. The announcement follows a six-week pilot program earlier this year that showed that more than 60% of calls received by those teams did not require immediate police or fire dispatch.
The goal of the program is “to ensure the right response for residents facing emergencies, while freeing up our police officers to fight violent crime,” Ginther said. His proposed $5.2 million plan would fund 17 social workers, six paramedics and six dispatchers.
Changing policing in Columbus has been a priority for Ginther after a series of fatal police shootings of Black juveniles and adults. Earlier this year Ginther invited the Justice Department to conduct a review of the agency.
Last year voters approved a new civilian police review board, another of the mayor’s initiatives. With the support of the city council, Ginther in 2016 also implemented body-worn police cameras for the first time.