The Maryland chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statement today following the announcement that Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott has launched an alternative dispatch pilot program.
“Alternative dispatch programs show great promise,” said Eileen Zeller, a volunteer with the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action. “By deploying professionals with specialized public health and crisis response training to difficult situations involving mental health, homelessness, and other non criminal instances, these programs provide an emerging solution to reducing police-civilian interactions while equipping those in need with critical support and resources. We’re grateful that Mayor Scott is working to bring this innovative model to Baltimore.”
Research shows even in communities with high homicide rates such as Baltimore, New Haven, New Orleans, and Camden, Louisiana, fewer than 4 percent of 911 calls are related to violent crimes. Instead, the majority of these calls are for incidents such as disorderly conduct, noise complaints, suspicious people or cars, mental health, substance use, and homelessness. In light of this, improving emergency and crisis response so that professionals who are better equipped to respond to these challenges are dispatched is one of a number of measures Everytown has identified that have the potential to help prevent police shootings, which have a disproportionate impact on Black communities.
Programs that deploy public health professionals and crisis workers to situations involving mental health, substance use, and homelessness—referred to as alternative dispatch programs—provide an emerging solution that can save lives and provide critical services to those in need.
This legislative session, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers helped pass the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, a comprehensive package of legislation including numerous measures to prevent police violence and create transparency and accountability, including strong statewide standards to prevent the excessive use of force, restricting the use of no-knock search warrants and requiring the use of body-worn cameras.