Dear Mayor Gallego and Councilmembers:
We are writing to you as the Neighborhood-Organized Crisis Assistance Program (NOCAP) coalition to propose utilizing $20 million of surplus funds from the 2020-21 budget to establish an official first responder department for noncriminal and nonviolent dispatches. This program’s focus will mainly center around mental health, substance abuse, wellness checks, and unsheltered concerns. The development and inception of this new first responder service should draw heavily on the public’s input and engagement from the moment it is authorized.
We are aware of City Manager Ed Zuercher’s intent to introduce a similar program and understand the Phoenix Police Department has presented Crisis Assistance models in the past. However, we believe that the responsibility for developing this program should not be given to the Phoenix Police Department or come from top officials with no community input.
The Neighborhood-Organized Crisis Assistance Program (NOCAP) coalition is proposing the following items as fundamental to the establishment of this crisis assistance service:
- This program and its First Responders are separate from all other current first responder departments.
- This entity will be the only First Responder department responding to dispatch for non-violent and non-criminal calls.
- There will be an agreement by all parties involved in the creation of the CAP that the development of a strong human resources network is crucial to the establishment of this program. All mental health organizations will be thoroughly vetted for their efficiency and success for working with disenfranchised and underrepresented communities in Phoenix, Arizona. Vetting should include researching if organizations work with police, ICE, and other law enforcement agencies. Mental health organizations, hospitals, and community service organizations that directly work with the Phoenix police or use incarceration as a solution for the individuals in their care will not be involved with any iteration of a Crisis Assistance Program in the city of Phoenix.
- Responders will have a unique uniform that is distinguishable from all other current departments.
- Responders will not run background checks, report drug use or drug possession, or report someone they believe is undocumented.
- Responders will not report calls or cases to the police or ICE.
- Responders will be required to have professional training in de-escalation.
- A minimum of two individuals will respond to each call, one skilled medical professional and one responder certified in social sciences and behavioral health.
- Responders will not carry weapons of any kind, including less-than-lethal weapons not limited to pepper spray, tasers, or any incapacitating tools.
- Responders cannot have been former police or be involved in PPD activities.
- Funding will involve providing resources to people in need. Including but not limited to food, blankets, medicine, transportation, and assistance for leaving a bad living situation.
- Recruitment for responders will prioritize the hiring of local individuals with knowledge of Phoenix’s diverse neighborhoods.
- The first responder unit will be accessible through the 9-1-1 dispatch system.
- When responders are dispatched, responders who live in the area of the call will be prioritized if available.
- The budget for 911 operators and call centers (Communication Bureau 911/Crime Stop Call Center) will be reallocated to this entity’s budget instead of the Phoenix Police Department.
- Ongoing funding to be $20 Million/per year for a functional Crisis Assistance Program department.
- Because this program will free up hundreds of thousands of calls to service, funding should not come entirely from surplus funds, but instead from the already over-funded police budget. Operations dictate budget, and this will move operations away from police.
- The creation of an AD HOC committee is formed to make sure the program stays on target with community involvement and oversight.
By accepting this proposal, you will be joining your neighbors and community organizations from all over Phoenix, who believe this program is essential for building a safer, community-focused Phoenix.
The Neighborhood-Organized Crisis Assistance Program coalition: