Alternative 911

Semester: 2020 Fall

Students: Anna Vande Velde and William Roberts

The Boston Police Department routinely responds to calls for service involving mental health, homelessness, substance use, traffic incidents, and nonviolent neighborhood or domestic disputes. In the face of nationwide racial disparities in public safety practices, many have advocated for the ability to seek help in addressing these issues without relying entirely on the police.

Boston City Councilors Lydia Edwards, Michelle Wu, and Julia Mejia have proposed an ordinance that would require the city of Boston to create an alternative emergency response line to handle nonviolent calls. The ordinance would give the City of Boston 90 days to develop a systemic community safety crisis-response plan to connect people in need of assistance with City- or community-based service providers including health care professionals, mental health workers, workers specializing in outreach to residents experiencing homelessness, and other unarmed professionals with specialized training.

HNMCP will study how such a crisis-response plan might be structured, informed by connections with stakeholders and a review of how other cities and municipalities have addressed these challenges, paying special attention to whether and how dispute resolution processes and practices might play a role in a more holistic system.

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