Different police approach favored for nonviolent 911 calls


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Social service and mental health professionals could respond to many non-violent 911 calls in Ohio’s capital and largest city that are now handled by police, according to a survey conducted as part of an ongoing review of policing.

More than half of respondents said that wellness checks and missing person reports are among calls that both police and trained crisis professionals could handle together, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Nearly two-thirds of respondents felt that mental health crises and suicide threats not involving reports of weapons don’t require any police response, according to the survey conducted by the Saunders PR Group.

The firm’s $30,000 contract included 12 focus groups, six town halls and a survey of about 4,000 people.

“There’s not a message of anti-policing,” firm founder Gayle Saunders told council Tuesday. “What we heard from the community is there’s an opportunity to actually bring some relief to the officers and what they have to do in the community.”

City leaders have pushed for changes to the police department for years but intensified efforts after the December killing of Andre Hill, who was Black, by a now-fired white officer.

Last month, city council agreed to fund the next class of police recruits following a debate over the future of law enforcement that would have put the class on hold.

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