Akron board hears details of alternative plan from 911 responders
DOWNTOWN AKRON – During the Akron City Council meeting on September 13, members heard a presentation on using community responders for low priority 911 calls.
Officials from The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) – a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit comprising police, prosecutors, judges and corrections and other law enforcement officials – presented data on 911 calls and the potential for community responders to deal with some of the lower priority calls.
According to the LEAP website, the nonprofit advocates for reforms in criminal justice and drug policies to make communities safer and more just.
Amos Irwin, director of the LEAP program, along with Betsy Pearl, associate director for criminal justice reform at American Progress, presented the percentage of call types for all calls to 911 in eight cities across the United States on a year. The Ohio data included calls to the Dayton Police Department over a one-year period, about 29% of which involved accidents or thefts; 23% for mental health, services or minor conflicts; 19 percent for high-risk policing issues; 15 percent for disputes; 8% for suspicious persons; and 6 percent for alarm calls.
Pearl said most calls for service in cities across the United States are of low or medium priority.
“Each city codes different types of 911 calls,” she added.
Pearl said that with the cities studied, community responders could handle 20 to 38 percent of 911 calls from those cities.
At the meeting, Tom Thompson, a retired Deputy Police Chief of the Miamisburg Police Department, located just north of Cincinnati, also spoke at the meeting. Thompson said that of the roughly 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States, the vast majority have been in or witnessed an encounter with someone with a mental health disorder. He added that these encounters usually result in the use of force or criminal charges, which could be avoided and could have better results if a community worker was involved rather than the police.
Pearl said the opportunity is here for Akron to build something from the ground up and allow residents to have their say on what a community response plan should look like.
“The training part of this is absolutely critical to the success of this,” said Pearl of training dispatchers and community workers.
City councilor Shammas Malik (D-Ward 8), who has repeatedly mentioned at council meetings exploring a program to have community responders for low-level 911 calls, said he is important to send the best possible person to answer a call. He added that by using community workers, the police could focus on other priorities.
Council is expected to continue discussing community stakeholders at future meetings.
In the other cases, the Council approved:
• a development agreement with Petros Development Co. LLC for the property in the Riverwoods development. In February, Council approved a conditional use permit for the construction of a new residential complex on a 76-acre site at 1870 Akron-Peninsula Road. The site is the former Riverwoods golf course and driving range, and Petros Homes Inc. intends to build 197 residential townhouses, including 169 for rent and 28 for sale, according to city officials. The site is expected to have 54 acres of open space, 45 of which are dedicated to public open space. Council members Russel Neal (D-Ward 4) and Nancy Holland (D-Ward 1) voted against and Malik abstained;
• Apply for an American Rescue Plan Act Fiscal Year 2021 Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant from the Economic Development Administration. City officials said the funding would be used to build the second floor of the Bounce Innovation Hub, located at 526 S. Main St .;
• a contract with Blue Line Innovations for the purchase of 60 vests and ballistic helmets to be placed on all front-line vehicles of the Akron fire department;
• accepting grants from the United States Department of Homeland Security’s 2020 Firefighter Assistance Grant program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency;
• Apply for a Safe Neighborhoods Project Grant for FY2020 and a Justice Assistance Grant for FY2021, both administered by the Office of Criminal Justice Services of the Department of Public Safety of the Ohio; and
• Apply for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Law Enforcement Diversion Program Fiscal Year 2021 Rapid Response Team Grant.
The Council also agreed to move the following legislation to next week’s consent agenda, which is a list of routine laws that do not require discussion and can be implemented all at once under ” a single motion:
√ an agreement between the city and the Ohio Water Development Authority to refinance the water system mortgage income improvement bonds issued in 2009;
√ accept a vacation plate for a portion of Ravine Street, located north of Hickory Street;
√ approve the sale of municipal property at 155 Hickory Street to Matthew and Melissa Brooks;
filed for and entered into agreements for funding certain capital improvements under the Ohio Public Works Commission Local Transportation Improvement Program and State Capital Improvement Program ;
solicit funding for the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study for various projects;
√ an agreement with Buckeye Energy Brokers Inc. for aggregation consulting services related to the natural gas aggregation program for the city; and
√ Apply for the 2021 Justice Assistance Grant administered by the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The Board will then meet on September 20 for committee meetings starting at noon and a regular meeting at 7:00 p.m., both meetings being conducted through the Zoom video conferencing app. The public can view the meetings on the Council’s YouTube page. For a link, visit www.akroncitycouncil.org.
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