City To Begin Replacing Some Police with Unarmed Social Workers


Unarmed social workers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will now respond to specific 911 calls instead of the police department, the city’s mayor announced Monday.

Democratic Mayor Tim Keller announced the creation of Albuquerque Community Safety, which will serve alongside the Albuquerque Police Department and Albuquerque Fire Department, as a “first-of-its-kind” department to respond to calls on inebriation, homelessness, addiction and mental health.

“The department will give 9-1-1 dispatch an option when a community safety response is more appropriate than a paramedic, fire-fighter, or armed police officer,” according to the city’s media release.

The creation of the new department is the result of two years of work to transform Albuquerque’s approach to public safety.

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“While many cities are only now waking up to these issues, Albuquerque is well into its police reform process and we decided to tackle these tough questions head on when we took office,” Keller said.

“For years, we’ve heard the public calling for a better solution for de-escalation and more officers for community policing, and we have been listening.

“It’s time we stop asking officers to do everything, and time we get people the help they need instead of sending armed officers to knock on their door.”

Do you think this new community safety department is a good solution?

He added that the creation of the community safety department will “deliver a civilian public health approach to public safety.”

“We want to send the right resource to the right call — especially where a social worker or trained professional can connect people with the services they need, instead of simply taking folks to jail or the hospital, which have been the only choices until now,” Keller said.

The new group would refocus millions of dollars through the budget process into the public health model with a civilian-based response, and allow police officers to focus their time on violent crime.

A spokesperson for the mayor told The Washington Post that the new department was part of the city’s response to the “defund the police” movement that has gained traction following the death of George Floyd, who died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for roughly nine minutes during an arrest.

“We’ve placed more and more issues on the plates of officers who are not trained — despite their best efforts and despite some training — they’re not totally trained to be a social worker, or to be an addiction counselor, or to deal with things around child abuse when they’re just answering a call,” Keller said at a news conference Monday.

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“We should have trained professionals do this, instead of folks with a gun and a badge.”

Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier told The Post that his officers were “relieved” by the news of the creation of the new community safety department.

“This is the solution” to overburdened police departments across the country, he said.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, signed an executive order on law enforcement on Tuesday.

“Law enforcement officers provide the essential protection that all Americans require to raise their families and lead productive lives,” the order reads.

“The relationship between our fellow citizens and law enforcement officers is an important element in their ability to provide that protection.

“By working directly with their communities, law enforcement officers can help foster a safe environment where we all can prosper.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith