To Better Serve and Protect Cops Need Some Relief

Calls for the blanket defunding of police are literally killing us. The proof is in the spike of homicides in cities that brutally cut their police budgets during the last year.

  That said, it doesn’t mean that programs can’t be implemented to shift police priorities and share duties with other specialists, like mental health professionals, to respond to carefully screened 911 calls.

           Now wait before you react. I’m not talking about sending out a lone social worker on a potentially dangerous call or cutting the number of officers on the street. This is about thoughtfully pairing the two forces as a first responder team. It’s about recognizing that there are eight million people in this country struggling with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, to say nothing of all the other mental health maladies, and most police officers are simply not trained to deal with them.


Society has unfairly foisted the duty of managing the mentally unstable upon police, coinciding with a glut of street guns and ill-conceived bail reforms, and it is way past time to lift some of the burden off these officers.

           Teaming cops and mental health clinicians is one idea currently being tested nationwide, in Boston, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and in several cities in Northern California, among others.

In Houston, the sheer size of the county is a hindrance to a timely team response, so 150 officers are equipped with iPads that instantly put them in touch with specialists at their Center for Mental Health. When confronted with someone in mental distress the officer can get real time advice on how to handle the situation.

An assessment of the Houston program, which began in 2017, found that remote help from behavioral experts allowed officers to come to an on-scene resolution in 42% of mental health calls. Other subjects were safely sent to an emergency room or psychiatric hospital and only two were taken to jail.

Houston Teams Cops with Behavior Experts

           The success of this team approach is encouraging especially when you consider that about a quarter of all those shot and killed by police each year are mentally ill citizens experiencing a crisis.

           So, that’s one idea to modernize policing. Another has been tried and tested in Eugene, Oregon for decades.

Thirty years ago, officials in Eugene dared to try something different. After realizing how much time officers were spending responding to non-violent calls involving someone sleeping in a park, dumpster diving behind a luxury building or a homeless person acting strangely they decided to refocus efforts. They created the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Street program, CAHOOTS for short. It has freed up police officers to concentrate on serious crimes.

CAHOOTS has a mobile van staffed with a medic (an EMT or registered nurse) and an experienced crisis worker. They don’t wear uniforms, which can heighten fear among the mentally ill, and they are trained to mediate tense situations. They are most often called upon to respond to suicidal subjects, intoxicated or disorderly people or requests for a welfare check. Most importantly, the city’s 911 operators are specially trained to determined when a CAHOOTS team can be safely dispatched instead of a squad car. In 2019, CAHOOTS teams responded to more than 18,580 calls that otherwise would have diverted police officers. And they do it for a fraction of the cost of sending in sworn law enforcement.

Some of the CAHOOTS Team – photo:

This is a big deal, and the CAHOOTS idea has spread to places as diverse as Denver, Colorado and New York’s Harlem neighborhood. Whenever the powers that be can compassionately respond to the mentally ill and, at the same time, reduce the strain on overworked cops, it is a win-win.  A 2017 study from the Treatment Advocacy Center showed police officers spent 21% of their time responding to or transporting people with mental illness at a cost that year of $918 million.  I’m betting the figures are even higher now considering the emotional effects of the pandemic.  

Look, the idea of simply stripping millions of dollars from police departments, with no concrete plans for how to deal with the shortfall of first responders, is a recipe for disaster. The CAHOOTS model shows us a tested and proven way forward. Every mayor, police chief and community activist should take notice.




  1. Diane Dimond on August 16, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    Matt Maggio@MaggioMatt writes:

    Even nil-poverty Sweden has a large “POLIS”; any practical sustainable society needs one.

  2. Diane Dimond on August 16, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Daina Sidrys Urbaitis writes:

    Great column! These programs need to be funded and implemented as widely as possible. Thanks for focusing on this serious problem.

    Daina Urbaitis

  3. Diane Dimond on August 16, 2021 at 12:07 pm writes:

    Hey Diane!

    Great article today about ‘Police need some relief’… very important topic!

    We need to do everything we can to allow Police to focus on real crimes.

    Also, great article last week about dirtbag Cuomo.

  4. Diane Dimond on August 16, 2021 at 5:06 pm

    Steve Liddick writes:

    We shouldn’t judge all cops by the bad ones, but I think it would be fair to review officers now on duty and weed out the bad apples–those who take shortcuts with liberties and laws.

  5. Diane Dimond on August 17, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    flmaxey writes:

    What we need is “perpetrator” reform. Maybe a public service message is in order:

    1. Obey the law.

    2. If you can’t do that, Cop’s are going to be real interested in what you’re doing. (They’re hired for that purpose.)

    3.To avoid lead poisoning, when in the presence of an officer, keep both hands clearly visible, move real slow and obey commands.

    4. No one can object to their rights being violated, on the spot. That’s what lawyers and judges are for. You’ll get your day in court.

    5. A Darwin award may be handed out to those who simply can’t comply with ANY of the above.

  6. Diane Dimond on August 17, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    Greg Scherr writes:

    Anyone who feels that there does need to be a change look at

    This company makes a product called “Bolawrap” this tool will eliminate those in crisis to be taken safely, allows officers to arrest those with knives without need for a gun, just watch the short videos and you’ll understand, I’m trying to let anyone with a platform to look.

    Be well

  7. Diane Dimond on August 17, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    Leonardo Gambardella writes:

    Let the police do their job. It’s time to point the finger at the real culprit and that’s the political leadership and the left leaning court system. Their the ones behind mask mandates, anti religious gatherings
    no bail or no detainment policies.

    Social workers are an after-the-danger-to-others procedure. Yes it’s true there are a lot of mentally challenged people out there but when their imposing a threat to others having a social worker intervene may just be to dangerous to the victims or themselves.

    Out of all the law enforcement personnel the percentage of bad officers is minute. If we continue down this path we will be sorry. Fix the criminal situation before you even begin to correct those who have the most dangerous jobs in the world protecting us.

  8. Diane Dimond on August 17, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    jll464 writes:

    No. What cops need is to stop acting like thugs and dump the us vs them mentality.
    Anyone still supporting cops while we watch them beat people for filming, arrest mothers in the park without masks and hassle church goers is asleep at the wheel. These are NOT isolated incidents. If they’ll do all this, why would you think there’s a line they won’t cross for that paycheck.

    WAKE UP!!

    • Diane Dimond on August 17, 2021 at 2:17 pm

      bfasulo73 replies to jll464:

      You wake up.

      You are disconnected from reality when it comes to your generalization of all cops are bad.

      Not all cops are bad. There are some bad ones. There are good & bad people in every profession.

      Who is doing most of the shootings in Chicago & NYC?

      Black criminals are shooting/killing black citizens including children.

      Get real

      • Diane Dimond on August 17, 2021 at 2:19 pm

        Greg Scherr replies to bfasulo73:

        Ssshhh you KNOW you can’t say that, you’re just a racist who is blind to what’s happening out there!!

        Cops shoot black men and kids because they can!!

        LOL, you sir. are gonna lose your job and any ability to work.


        • Diane Dimond on August 17, 2021 at 2:19 pm

          jll464 replies:

          Criminals and cops can both be bad, they are not mutually exclusive.

          But go ahead and keep giving these jack boots a pass while they stomp on your freedom. I’m sure it will work out great.

          • Diane Dimond on August 17, 2021 at 2:26 pm

            Diane Dimond replies to jll464

            Ahhhh, the Pelosi phrase “Jackboot” —– Interesting choice of words in that it conjures up visions of Hitler soldiers or one of George Orwell’s Big Brothers in the book “1984.”

            Is that really what you think the majority of U.S. law enforcement is like? Really? If your answer is yes, I wonder who you will call when (God forbid) you are a victim of crime.

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