Bill Watch

CRISES Act Would Allow Community Organizations to Respond to Mental Crises and Other Emergencies

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

As thousands of people take to the streets in California and across the nation to protest and grieve the death of George Floyd and other black lives extinguished during encounters with law enforcement, protestors are calling for the billions that cities and counties spend on police agencies to be redirected to community health-focused strategies and organizations that can take on responsibilities currently held by law enforcement.

Thus, it’s no surprise that AB 2054, a CA bill that would move the state a step toward that objective, is swiftly gaining public support.

In less than a week, more than 3,200 people have submitted statements calling on the state Assembly to approve the bill.

AB 2054, the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (CRISES) Act would put community organizations in the role of first responder for certain calls involving homelessness, mental health, domestic abuse, and other situations that the bill’s supporters say would be better served by community-based response teams centered on culturally appropriate, trauma-informed, and relationship-building services.

“Without appropriate responders, we send in the police,” the bill’s author, Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager said in a Tweet. “No system to support [people] in mental health crisis? Send the police.”

The problem with relying on police to respond to issues related to homelessness, or to psychiatric and other emergencies involving people with disabilities, is that it increases the risk that people from these vulnerable populations will be criminalized, injured, or killed.

One year ago today, On June 2, 2019, Walnut Creek police shot and killed 23-year-old Miles Hall after his mother and grandmother called on police to help them get their son, who was experiencing a severe schizophrenic episode, into a mental health treatment center.

In another incident last June, an off-duty LAPD officer fatally shot Kenneth French, a 32-year-old non-verbal, disabled man in line for food at a Costco. Sanchez also shot and critically wounded French’s parents.

The shooting occurred moments after French reportedly knocked Sanchez, who was holding his 18-month-old son, to the ground. Sanchez and his attorneys say that he was “violently attacked,” and had no alternative but to shoot to protect himself and his son. The family’s attorney said that Kenneth “pushed” Sanchez, but that just before Sanchez shot at the family, Russell French stepped between his son and the officer, to explain that Kenneth had a severe disability.

While the shooting did not occur on duty, it shows how swiftly a situation can escalate when armed law enforcement officers come into contact with someone with a disability or mental illness.

In response to news of French’s death, author Marie Myung-Ok Lee wrote about her constant fear that her adult son, who “has the face of an angel” but is severely intellectually disabled, could one day be injured or killed by police who might escalate one of his public meltdowns. “He would not raise his hands if ordered to. Every response he would have to an aggressive cop would be classified as resisting arrest,” Myung-Ok Lee wrote.

The CRISES Act is “designed to de-escalate crises, reduce reactive violence, and to send vital services to people who have a tougher time accessing critically needed emergency services,” Asm. Kamlager says.

A 2016 report from the Ruderman Family Foundation found that individuals with disabilities make up one-third to one-half of all people killed by police.

A separate report from the Treatment Advocacy Center estimates that at least one in four people killed during encounters with police had a severe mental illness. In some cities, the prevalence of mental illness can rise to half of all fatal police shootings.

The CRISES Act would clear a path for community-based organizations to take on more emergency response duties involving “vulnerable populations.”

The bill defines vulnerable populations as “people of color, elderly people, people with disabilities, people who are gender nonconforming, people who are likely to face disproportionate police contact, people who are formerly incarcerated, people with immigration status issues, people who are unhoused, people facing mental health crises, people involved in intimate partner violence, people likely to be engaged in community violence, people challenged by substance abuse, and people living in areas that are environmentally insecure and subject to natural and climate disasters.”

In San Francisco, police officials estimate that as high as 80 percent of calls to police are for people in mental crisis, and that officers transport nearly 4,000 people to mental health facilities per year.

A recently approved SF Police Commission resolution calls on city leaders to find alternatives to having police respond to issues arising from homelessness that could be better handled by homeless service providers.

Law enforcement-free emergency response is not unprecedented

If increasing non-police response to certain emergencies doesn’t sound feasible, we have the example of Eugene, Oregon’s Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program, which has offered people in mental health crises law enforcement-free emergency assistance for three decades, and is a model that’s spreading across the country.

The program, which dispatches two-person teams made up of a medic and a mental health professional, differs from most municipalities’ mental health crisis teams, including those in LA. Both the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD teams are each comprised of a mental health clinician and a law enforcement officer.

The two agencies’ teams have been praised for their de-escalation techniques and improved outcomes over traditional law enforcement response to emergency calls, but there aren’t enough teams to respond to each of  LA’s community mental health needs.

Under AB 2054, an 11-member advisory committee, selected by Governor Gavin Newsom, the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, and the Speaker of the Assembly would first develop criteria for grant applications, then review resulting proposals and determine which organizations will take on the responsibility of emergency response. (To be eligible, organizations must already be operating in at least 10 counties.)

The advisory committee would then be responsible for overseeing the grants and making recommendations to the Office of Emergency Services about implementation.

The bill is sponsored and supported by dozens of organizations, including the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, the ACLU of California, Youth Justice Coalition, PolicyLink, and East Bay Community Law Center.

“Communities across California are frustrated and are sending a clear message: we must fund solutions that save lives,” cosponsors of the bill wrote in a statement. “We call on the Legislature and the Governor to pass the C.R.I.S.E.S Act, AB 2054, and scale-up community-based responses to emergencies.”

The bill may face an uphill battle, given California’s COVID-19 budget crisis, as it will require the state budget to include approximately $16 million for three years worth of grants to community organizations.

Yet transferring some emergency response responsibility to community organizations also has the potential to save counties millions in excessive force and wrongful death lawsuits, as well as on standard police expenses and costs related to incarceration.


Image by Vapi Photographie, Flickr.

16 Comments

  • Now here’s something I can agree with!
    Yes! Send community groups in to deal with dings! Take that burden off of law enforcement.
    Fantastic, kudos to those supporting this!

  • Great research Taylor.
    While the shooting did not occur on duty, it shows how swiftly a situation can escalate when armed law enforcement officers come into contact with someone with a disability or mental illness.

    Do you think this would have been different if an armed citizen had the same encounter? More guns in the hands of law abiding citizens not less.
    Until criminals give up their gun we need to heavily arm citizens to defend themselves from thugs.

    CF, here’s where you sling an obligatory who protects them from police…blah blah blah.

  • Yes let’s expand mental health services under the leadership of the CEO’s office and the BOS. The abuses attributed to the Sheriff’s never occur under their leadership. I mean look at DCFS, oh they allowed children to be murdered… forget that. Look at a, Probation! They are prosecuting four Probation Officers for abuse… No…. say it ain’t so. Don’t look at that, I am sure those are just aberration.

    • Seeking – Those four Detention Services Officers (NOT Deputy Probation Officers) were acquitted by the jury in less than a day.

  • LOL, I think we finally agree on something. Cops are certainly not competent to deal with these issues. I am glad you agree that we should move resources from law enforcement to other services. In order words, we should decrease funding from cops and allocate those funds to others, as Councilman Curren Price is now suggesting to the tune of $150 Million. Its not much, but once you take a little, next time you take a little more, and so on. This would have been unheard of a couple years ago.

    I am not sure why we think a security guard with 20 weeks in an academy running around a track and shooting guns would know how to handle these issues. The less interaction with the public from the police, the better. And, the less interaction, the less funding they need.

    Regarding your point of more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens, what an idiotic statement. We already have more guns in the hands of civilians that any industrialized nation and the most gun deaths than any industrialized nation. And, most of those are not “bad” guys robbing little old ladies, they are suicides. Factor in the women killed by there partners (the likelihood of murder increases with gun ownership), or the accidental deaths (because some yokel does not know how to handle a gun or leave out for a kid to get), or someone just gets pissed at someone they know and they shoot them. Do not be so scared of the black man. He’s not coming to get you.

    • Cf, “defund the police” Let’s see where that goes. “Once you take a little, next time take take a little more.” We’re not talking about taxing the public here cf, when it comes to funding the government it’s more like, “once you pretend to cut here, then you refund with even more later” You’re funniest when you regurgitate your junior college pan African studies lectures and pretend to know the future. But at least you’re behaving yourself a little better. Speaking of junior college Pan African professors, you never did get back to us regarding the BDS Israel movement. From a previous comment you mentioned the “marathon” of civil rights or something, hows the Palestinian marathon going?

  • I believe many in law enforcement and contributors to this site have long advocated allowing those agencies and their exerts best suited for treating and addressing the specific ills of society to do just that and take it out of the hands of law enforcement. The mentally ill should be treated by experts and housed in facilities suited for their illness, however in LA County the BOS thought otherwise and on a state level do not want to fund such efforts. With respect to child care issues, law enforcement happily to stay out of people’s homes, allow DCFS to handle their business and be called in after all their intervention efforts have been exhausted. With regards to juveniles, allow social workers to counsel respond and “counsel” juveniles no matter what they do and take the police totally out of the rquation. Oh, and the homeless, if all the billions allocated by taxpayers was effectively used to combat the problem law enforcement would not have to intervene. Win-Win. The police willl gladly stand down. .This would mean the police could go about their real job of enforcing the laws put in place to keep a chaotic world functioning. If you and other members of society want to disband all police, I’m sure many of them will either finds another job or join in with the protestors to fight the system. If you and other members of society want to disband all police, I’m sure many of them will either finds another job or join in with the protestors to fight the system. Hell, you think all police are bad, maybe some might even go the way of the CIA trained special forces in the Mexican military and put their skills to use in nefarious ways since you and others already think police are all bad and nothing more than riving gangs praying in innocent minorities.

    CF like many others are dis-ingenious manipulators who like to point fingers at law enforcement and put all the dirty work and heavy lifting on them. It’s then easy to scapegoat them when things don’t go as planned.

    Just as the city of Los Angeles is going to divert 100+million in funding from the Los Angeles Police Department, I say all the way and start to downsize and eventually disband all law enforcement in the United States of America. Members of the US House recommended disbanding ICE so the political will is there.

    Let the voice of the people be heard.

    “DISBAND ALL THE POLICE NOW”

  • Madame Kong, you really should stop by and say Hi one of these days since you know me. As I mentioned, don’t be too coy. I suspect we could have some lively conversations. And, you are right, we’ll see how it goes.

    By no means do I pretend to know the future. If I did, I’d be rich. But, I am a student of history, and I’ve learned there are some social forces that you can try to hold them back, but over time you will not be able to. That is why blacks no longer sit in the back of the bus, homosexuals aren’t in the closet and women are voting and not going back to the alleys to abort your fetus. True, its never linear, but it moves forward. Who would thought 50 years ago that a white cop would even face charges for the death of a black man, or that it would even be news. Who would have thought even 40 years ago that a black kid could call you a “pig” and you’ll have to bite your lip. Who would have thought even 30 years ago that weed would be legal. Who would even think even 1 month ago that politicians would call for reducing funding for the police. No self-respecting kid is now saying I want to grow up to be a cop. They see you as anachronistic, a dinosaur, a brute that needs to be reigned in. I’m telling you, Madame Kong, the shine is off and even your kids are embarrassed of what daddy does.

    Regarding the Palestinian marathon, they are still running it. That is why there is no peace in the middle east. That is why a bunch of crazy Saudis hopped on planes and drove them into a couple your buildings. The Arabs have a saying, me and my brother against my cousin, my cousin and I against a stranger. They did not like what the US was doing the Palestinians, certainly one of the reasons, I believe, and they knocked your buildings down with almost 4,000 people in them. Its marathon, and they know it better than we do. That is why a bunch of cave dwelling men with sandals chased you out of Afghanistan after 20 years. They are in it to win it. You, to finish your tour and get back home to your donuts, burgers and fries.

    It must sting for someone as patriotic as you and your ilk to see the world laughing at us and eating our lunch, to see your commander in chief hiding in a bunker from a bunch of black kids. The entire world has pointed out how racist police treat blacks, the Chinese have handled the virus better, will probably get the vaccine before we do and will sell it to us just like they have been doing with all of the other supplies. The Russians loved the fact that they were not the only one who had to leave Afghanistan with their tail between their legs, and now they got a lock on Syria. While our president is playing Apprentice, the world continues on the marathon. Go back to your bunker.

    • Hey Miss CF
      What do you mean “your buildings?” Where are you from? Here on a Work Visa? Over stayed your visit?
      You’re such a simpleton.

  • Mmm cf, you forgot to mention Israel. You know, that country where the Palestinians are being treated so badly. You revel in the the destruction of the US, yet somehow fail to mention the apartheid state of Israel, why is that? certainly the US’s unconditional support of such an oppressive country has had to have something to do with our setbacks and disasters in the Middle East.

    Couldn’t help but notice when you refer to the United States you make it clear it doesn’t include you. And you go to great lengths not to blame or even mention Israel, it’s government, or policies, why is that? Please explain without the silly misdirections please, I think you need to explain this to us.

  • Madame Kong, I know I may come off rude for posting shortly after my last post without allowing my racist friends to chime in, but I could not help myself and share the latest news about your friends from Georgia, including that ex cop, that chased and killed Amaud Arbery and which you and ilk jumped to defend. Check it out:

    “William “Roddie” Bryan told investigators he overheard Travis McMichael use a racial epithet after fatally shooting a black man in Glynn County, Ga., in February, according to court testimony Thursday by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation official.

    Bryan told law enforcement officials that McMichael uttered “f****** n*****” after shooting Ahmaud Arbery three times with his Remington 870 shotgun and prior to police arriving on the scene.

    Richard Dial, a special agent with GBI and the lead investigator in the case, was asked if there is evidence that McMichael has used the n-word at any other time and he responded, “Yes, sir, many times.”

    I can’t believe little Travis was the only racist in the house. The apple couldn’t have fallen too far from the tree. I smell bacon.

    • Idk cf, whenever you have a high profile case all kinds of attention seekers come out of the woodwork, claiming they heard or saw something. You have to take these claims with a grain of salt. I remember the OJ case, all kinds of “witnesses” came and went on tv, they’d claim something outrageous then disappear. It’s foolish to give this stuff too much credence, until the evidence can be reviewed.

      I do remember seeing a video of Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed Palestinian kids with sniper rifles. The soldiers were laughing, cheering each other on, and making fun of the kids they were killing. That’s not a tall tale, it’s a video that’s not too hard to find on the internet. Now watch cf rail about stuff he imagines I think and ignore the second paragraph. Predictable and silly.

      • “That’s not a tall tale, it’s a video that’s not too hard to find on the internet.”

        O.K.

        So show us.

        Let’s see the video.

        • Go on you tube and put in Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinians. Perhaps you should look up the honorable minister Farrakhan’s (peace be upon him) lectures regarding Israel. That might unconfuse you a little.

Leave a Comment