Denver will send mental health experts in response to nonviolent 911 calls

Denver is sending mental health experts instead of police officers in response to nonviolent 911 calls.

  • Last Friday, a 13-year-old autistic boy was shot after his mother called 911 for a crisis intervention team (CIT) in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Denver, Colorado has recently released a Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) to handle nonviolent cases.
  • Denver police Chief Paul Pazen: “It’s the future of law enforcement, taking a public health view on public safety.” 
Linden Cameron (GoFundMe)

Linden Cameron was shot in Salt Lake City, Utah.

During the 13-year-old’s mental breakdown, the boy’s mother Golda Barton called 911 and asked for a crisis intervention team to help her transport her son to the hospital. Even though Barton had explained the situation and stressed that her son is not armed, the response team which was sent shot the 13-year-old autistic child. Unsurprisingly, the shooting caused outrage as people questioned why the police had shot Cameron instead of taking other, more appropriate measures. The investigation is currently open and the police are due to release the bodycam footage by September 21.

Source: @caring4denver

As of June 1, Denver has launched STAR, a team of mental health professionals and paramedics who respond to nonviolent 911 calls.

Upworthy explains that ‘a recent program out of Denver, Colorado has found that having unarmed mental health professionals respond to matters that don’t threaten public safety can be even more effective than armed officers’. Taking what happened last Friday into account, this statement could not be more true as one wonders how things could have gone differently had Cameron been sent the appropriate response team. Denver’s Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) is made up of mental health professionals and paramedics instead of armed police officers.

Denver police Chief Paul Pazen commented:

It’s the future of law enforcement, taking a public health view on public safety […] We want to meet people where they are and address those needs and address those needs outside of the criminal justice system.

Since STAR’s launch on June 1, the team has responded to over 350 911 calls concerning physical and mental needs. Some examples of nonviolent calls include reports about unhoused people in distress, indecent exposure, and suicide ideation among others. Although the team has only recently started responding to calls and Upworthy reports that it is ‘currently only working in the central downtown area of the city’, the STAR program seems to be a much-needed alternative to armed police officers.

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