“Toronto is the latest city looking to replace police with mental health crisis workers on non-violent 911 calls.”
This article, by Jake Kivanc, has been published in Vice magazine. Although written within a North American context, the ideas outlined might be seen as applicable elsewhere, including those countries (like the UK) where the police are not routinely armed..
The article begins:
“Since the killing of George Floyd by a group of Minneapolis police officers triggered international protests last summer, cities across the globe have begun to look at new ways to handle episodes of mental health, addiction, and poverty that don’t involve police presence.
In Toronto, that conversation became especially personal to people of colour after the deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet—a 29-year-old Black woman who fell 24 storeys from a balcony after Toronto police entered her family’s apartment during a wellness check—and Ejaz Chaudry—a 62-year-old Canadian Pakistani man who was shot to death by police, also during a wellness check.
Both incidents, which happened in the weeks after the Floyd killing, joined a long list of instances in which Black, brown, and Indigenous Canadians have been killed by police or died in their presence during a mental health episode.
Last week, Toronto city council voted to approve the launch of a program that would see police officers replaced with civilian-led teams specializing in mental health and addiction for non-violent 911 calls.
The move comes weeks after Toronto police—in response to city-wide protests last summer calling for the police agency to be defunded—put forward a budget of $1.076 billion, a zero percent increase from the previous year.
“This past year, we saw and heard from a record number of Torontonians who want to see a reformed, modernized, and efficient police service,” interim police chief James Ramer told the Toronto Police Board in January.
“This is a priority that we share jointly.”
While the exact details of the program, including funding, remain unclear, a pilot is slated to launch in 2022, with full implementation of the program promised by 2025. This would mean that as early as next year, some calls relating to mental health, homelessness, and/or addiction may not have to involve the use of police officers at all …”
You can read more from here.