DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Dayton City Commission agreed to move forward with an ‘alternative response system’ in a meeting last week, which means the Dayton Police Department (DPD) wouldn’t respond to all calls relating to mental health and/or non-violent situations.
“Often times they get caught up with these calls all night long, responding to opioid issues, mental health issues, other things that I think could best be helped by mental health and social work providers,” said Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw.
The system includes a $150,000 contract with Dignity Best Practice, which will study calls made to DPD and recommend certain alternative responses to non-violent ones. Shaw said after nine months the goal is to have a new system that lowers unnecessary police and citizen contact.
“It frees up the police to do the work they really want to be doing, which is stopping violent crime and things like that they feel they can be more impactful on and are much better suited for,” said Shaw.
Will Smith, coordinator for Dayton’s Police Reform Engagement, feels the new plan is just what this city needs. “It allows a holistic approach to some of the situations in our community, but also frees up officers to calls that do need them.”
Smith is also hopeful for more doors to open for community based policing. “At the end of the day we want people to be one safe, and we want them to get help for whatever issues they’re facing.”
Now that the system has been approved, Shaw said it’s time to put the plan into action. “To develop a list of mental health and social work providers, but also a dispatch model where I think there has to be some though into how dispatch can triage calls. This significant work, transformative work, but it won’t happen over night.”