REPORT: The Public Wants Non-Law Enforcement Emergency First Responders


June 22, 2020


Polling shows roughly seven in ten voters (68%) support non-law enforcement emergency responder programs. Even more (70%) support a non-police response for when a family member calls 911 because of a mental health crisis. Two-thirds of Americans (65%) favor a non-police response to a drug overdose.

A new report from The Justice Collaborative Institute and Data for Progress by Justin D. Levinson and Dawn Milam on the use of emergency first responders rather than law enforcement personnel proves how this simple policy shift both makes communities’ resource expenditures more efficient and saves lives. The report illuminates how non-law enforcement personnel, such as social workers and medical professionals, can assist vulnerable populations. They do so with far more success than armed police in situations including substance abuse, intoxication, and behavioral or mental health crises, to name a few.

Roughly seven in ten voters (68%) support non-law enforcement emergency responder programs. Alternatives to police responses when family members call 911 because of a mental health or related crisis are even more popular with 70% of likely voters in favor. The same thinking applies to drug overdoses and other substance abuse-related problems: The vast majority of voters (65%) favor a non-police response to these tragic events. The public recognizes there’s no reason to compound tragedy with the intervention of armed officials whose presence may contribute to making the situation more volatile or even result in the eruption of violence.

“We’re all looking for new ways to keep our communities safe and avoid the types of conflicts that lead to unnecessary harm and unintended consequences,” said Dawn Milam. “It’s exciting when we can find simple ways to work together in our communities to achieve those complex goals to everyone’s benefit—this is one of those times.”



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