Perhaps the most enjoyable part of having jumped into this campaign is the amazing conversations I have had with folks in our community. There are so many smart, compassionate, innovative people in Fort Collins and I am learning so much.
A major point of conversation right now in our country, our state, and our city (and rightly so) is safe and positive policing practices. I firmly believe that one of the keys to minimizing problematic interactions between residents and police is making sure that issues are met with the appropriate type and intensity of response. Being a psychologist, I am keenly interested in police/mental health partnerships, which add versatility to crisis response procedures.
The CAHOOTS program out of Eugene, Oregon, seems to be the alternative policing initiative that has gotten the most press as of late: What is CAHOOTS? - White Bird Clinic. Similar alternative programs have gotten off the ground in the Denver Metro area and, last week, I had a great talk with Vinnie Cervantes of the Denver Alliance for Street Response (STARS) about the nuts and bolts of funding, staffing, and administering them. You can read more about Vinnie's work here: In Denver, This Program Helps Reroute 911 Calls To Police Alternatives : NPR.
Finally, I had a delightful conversation with Stephanie Booco of Fort Collins Police Department's police/mental health/paramedic co-response team: Mental Health - City of Fort Collins (fcgov.com). I was blown away not only by what she and her team are already providing to folks in crisis with our community, but also options for expansion and enrichment of the program over time. Adding a mental health lens to crisis response not only allows for diversion of many residents-in-need to housing, psychological, and/or substance abuse resources, rather than legal consequences, but also stands to free police up to be more effective in responding to truly dangerous illegal activities.
With the backing of City leadership, I envision Fort Collins PD's co-responder program achieving incredible things in partnership with local governmental and non-profit agencies. I can't wait to become part of the continuing conversation about positive policing practices in our community on council!