Some good news

We got some good news a couple days ago worth celebrating.

The city of Columbus budgeting process involves the mayor sending a proposed budget to City Council toward the end of the calendar year, with Council having the ability to make its own adjustments.  On Monday, Council President Shannon Hardin announced an additional $1.2 million allocation to the 2023 budget for the creation of a nonpolice emergency response pilot program (at the 6:10 mark in this video).

Columbus already has several “Alternative Response” programs for nonviolent situations involving mental health, addiction, and other crises.  But they are all co-responder models, with an armed police officer taking the lead, accompanied by another trained professional.  One of the enduring impacts of the murder of George Floyd in 2020 has been communities more deeply questioning the extent to which we rely on police officers to respond to a wide range of crises, most for which they have little to no training. 

More to the point, when you are trained to look for threats, you often find them.  And when the main tool of response in your belt is a gun, that’s what you reach for.  Throw in several centuries of racism, unconscious bias, and an officer’s own unresolved trauma and things can get deadly, especially for Black folks.  Throw in mass incarceration and even if things don’t get deadly lives of whole families and communities can be devastated. 

The nonpolice crisis response model has been around for decades but is starting to take root in major US cities.  The New Yorker just published an excellent article giving a window into how one of those is operating: “Sending Help Instead of the Police in Albuquerque.”  That has an $11.7 million budget, with 70 responders, in a city less than 2/3rds the size of Columbus.  The Columbus Safety Collective lobbied our Council to dedicate $10 million to launch the program this year.  BREAD has also come on board in support.  The $1.2 million is a start, albeit small, a seed we can all help grow.

When we light our Peace Candle each Sunday, we “lament all forms of violence” and “join our hearts with one another…and all those who yearn for peace with justice.”  Having emergency responders in our city trained to approach people in crisis with unconditional positive regard is a step towards peace with justice.  When you look for humanity you often find it, and when your main tools involve de-escalation, a network of services, and trust-building over time, you not just save lives but start to grow something with generational impact.  Let’s do what we can to make this good news even better in upcoming years.           

You can follow the Columbus Safety Collective HERE.