This city sent health workers instead of cops to hundreds of cases. This is what it found

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • In the US, people with untreated mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter.
  • 1 in 4 deaths from police interactions involve someone with a serious mental illness.
  • A new programme in Denver, US, replaces police officers with health care workers on mental health and substance abuse calls.
  • In its 748 call-outs, the programme has seen zero arrests.

Across the US, people living with an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than the rest of the population. And as many as 1 in 4 deaths from police interactions involve someone with a serious mental illness.

So what would happen if health workers responded to scenarios related to mental health, substance abuse or homelessness instead? In Denver, Colorado, they might have found an answer: a dramatic fall in escalations that might otherwise result in an arrest.

In fact, the city’s police chief, Paul Pazen, told CBS News he believed the city’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) programme has even saved lives.

A step in the right direction

The issue of fatal police shootings has become more visible in the US in recent years. There were 1,004 such incidents in the US in 2020.

In January 2021, 58 people lost their lives in a police shooting. Seven of those victims were Black. According to the data journalism site Statista: “The rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity, standing at 34 fatal shootings per million of the population as of January 2021.”

The American Psychiatric Association says that the incidence of mental illness among Black and African Americans is broadly similar to the general population of the US. But when it comes to accessing treatment, things are different – the US National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that only 1 in 3 Black adults in the US who need mental health care receive it.

In its first six months, from June to November 2020, the STAR team responded to 748 calls, which all came via the Denver police 911 and non-emergency phone lines. The incidents in question ranged from trespass to drug problems and mental health crises – and were all handled without the involvement of police officers.

Treatment not chastisement

Denver’s programme is shining a light on an issue that US-based nonprofit the Treatment Advocacy Center – which lobbies for access to effective treatment for people with severe mental illness – says has often escaped attention.

In its 2015 report Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters, the organization called on policy-makers to ensure people with serious mental illness receive treatment before their behaviour leads to action from the police. It also highlighted the need for more complete statistics on fatal law enforcement encounters.

In the report, the organization wrote: “There is abundant evidence individuals with mental illness make up a disproportionate number of those killed at the very first step of the criminal justice process: while being approached or stopped by a law enforcement officer in the community.”

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Tools of asset development: Renewable Energy Projects case

How the massive plan to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine could make history – and leverage blockchain like never before

President von der Leyen’s State of the Union Address: charting the course out of the coronavirus crisis and into the future

Why capital markets have no more reservetions about Eurozone

OECD tells Eurozone to prepare its banks for a tsunami coming from developing countries

China in my eyes

Voice tech and the question of trust

My twin from Guangzhou

Business is a crucial partner in solving the mental health challenge

One third of poorer countries face both undernutrition and obesity: WHO report

Eurozone in trouble after Nicosia’s ‘no’

New energy security framework will help meet growing needs in East Africa, sustainably – UN economic wing

A shortened EU Summit admits failures, makes risky promises

Excise duties: Commission welcomes agreement on rules governing alcohol

COVID-19 lessons learnt: boosting EU civil protection

These are the countries best prepared for the fight against cancer

UN chief welcomes Taliban’s temporary truce announcement, encourages all parties to embrace ‘Afghan-owned peace’

Businesses are thriving, societies are not. Time for urgent change

GSMA Mobile 360 Series – MENA in Dubai, in Association with The European Sting

Korea should adapt its migration programmes to ensure continued success in the face of expected challenges

World must do more to tackle ‘shadowy’ mercenary activities undermining stability in Africa, says UN chief

Risks rising in corporate debt market

Military Medicine and its Relationship with Antibiotic Therapy

LGBTQI+ and medicine: are we prepared to deliver dignified and non-discriminatory health care?

ICC Appeals Chamber acquits former Congolese Vice President Bemba from war crimes charges

New labour laws in Qatar benefiting migrant workers a ‘momentous step forward’: ILO

Drinking water: new plans to improve tap water quality and cut plastic litter

Commission tries to solidify the EU statistical system

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: Argentina Accepts KP Amendment

On eve of Gaza border protest anniversary, UN’s top humanitarian official for Palestine calls for calm

What matters most to young Europeans?

Parliament pushes for cleaner cars on EU roads by 2030

How drones can help rural Africa take flight

Art has the power to change the world, says this renowned Iranian muralist

Spending on health increase faster than rest of global economy, UN health agency says

nCoV: An Emerging Respiratory Infection

What cybersecurity professionals can learn from triathletes

Russia accepts what the EU has to offer and settles to negotiate with Ukraine

New Erasmus: more opportunities for disadvantaged youth

GSMA Mobile 360 – MENA Dubai on 26-27 November 2019, in association with The European Sting

Businesses are lacking moral leadership, according to employees

Antitrust: Commission imposes interim measures on Broadcom in TV and modem chipset markets

Japan’s population is shrinking by a quarter of a million people every year

This robot boat delivered a box of oysters in a breakthrough for unmanned shipping

Key elements of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment

“A global threat lies ahead worsened after the EU’s green light to the Bayer-Monsanto merger”, a Sting Exclusive by the President of Slow Food

Car-free day – and the other 364 days of the year

The global liberal order is in trouble – can it be salvaged, or will it be replaced?

The JADE Spring Conference 2017 is casting its shadows before

Entrepreneurship in a newly shaped Europe: what is the survival kit for a young Catalan and British entrepreneur in 2018?

Draghi tells the EU Parliament his relaxed policies are here to stay

3 charts to help you understand the American shale boom

Where do health literacy and health policy meet?

How listening to patients could change the way we tackle cancer

How the diaspora is helping Venezuela’s migration crisis

Car emissions: MEPs set end on gap between lab and real driving emission tests

New El Salvador law, a victory for forced displacement victims: UN refugee agency

4 ways the way we make things can change for a sustainable world

Millennials (and Gen X) – Here are the steps you should take to secure your financial future

Trump systematically upsets global order and trade: Where does this end?

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s