aurora colorado, mental health police, police reform
via PixaBay

A police officer stands on-duty.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd murder in 2020, people have begun to rethink the role that armed police officers have in society. Does every problem need to be addressed by someone with the power to administer lethal force?

The Aurora Police Department in Colorado launched a six-month program last year that led to the creation of two mental health crisis response teams. The first pairs an officer with a mental health professional. The other pairs a mental health professional and a paramedic to handle mental health crisis situations where there is no apparent danger.

“When someone calls in to report either themselves or an individual in crisis, or maybe they just see someone who might need some resources and help, dispatch will put that in a call, and my team is able to click on the call, review everything and see if it meets criteria," Courtney Tassin, program manager for the Aurora Mobile Response Team, told 9News.

The Aurora Mobile Response Team's van is stocked full of food, water and hygiene products to help the people they encounter on the streets.

Over the first three months, the team went on 116 calls.


The Aurora Mobile Response Team launched in September

One study found that up to 10% of 911 calls nationwide could involve mental health issues. So it makes complete sense for police departments to respond to these situations with counselors trained in helping people with mental health issues instead of the knee-jerk reaction to send somebody with a gun.

Further, it allows police to do the work they’re trained to do instead of forcing them to act as mental health counselors. It also frees up the police so they can correctly respond to situations that may turn violent.

"A lot of times it's not appropriate for our officers to have to go to these calls, and you know, to possibly escalate the situation when it doesn't need to be so," Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson told CBS News.

The unarmed response teams are also less intimidating to people already on the edge.

"We always focus on what's least restrictive," Tassin told CBS News. "How do we keep from further traumatizing this person who's already in a very vulnerable state?"

The response team could reduce police shootings

The response team is a humane way to deal with people having mental health issues and it may also save lives. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement.

“By dismantling the mental illness treatment system, we have turned mental health crisis from a medical issue into a police matter,” said John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center. “This is patently unfair, illogical, and is proving harmful both to the individual in desperate need of care and the officer who is forced to respond.”

The Aurora Police Department’s new program is a welcome challenge to the status quo that’s been in place in America for decades. For too long we’ve tacitly agreed that the state’s only response to civil disturbances should be sending a person with a gun. Now, thanks to the calls for justice that happened after the death of George Floyd, people are waking up to the idea that cops can’t and shouldn’t solve everything.

"We have calls for people that are in mental health crisis every day," Sergeant Aaron Bunch said. "Police officers are trained to do a lot of things. What they don't have are Master's degrees in social work."

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less

Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

Keep Reading Show less
Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

Keep Reading Show less