The Cambridge City Council unanimously approved a measure Monday night that calls for developing an alternative policing model in the city by July 2022.
With the measure, councilors directed the City Manager work with the police, public health, human services, and emergency communications departments, among others, to “determine the feasibility” of an unarmed, alternative emergency response program that focuses on health and human and social services for non-violent calls.
“The Cambridge Police Department is the only response option when non-violent calls are received by Emergency Communications Department, calls that involve mental health, housing and homelessness issues, grief and trauma response, suicide prevention assessment and intervention and others that could be better served by an unarmed Public Health and Human Services response,” the council’s policy order reads.
The vote follows weeks after hundreds of residents expressed support for reallocating funding for the Cambridge Police Department to other city agencies focused on public health and social services. Cambridge, like a growing number of cities around the country, is facing demands from constituents to re-evaluate funding for police departments as the nation grapples with addressing systemic racism and police brutality against Black Americans following the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Cambridge councilors are asking the city agencies to report back with their findings on establishing an alternative co-response model, and how it would be funded and implemented, in the next fiscal year by September 14.
“We must redefine public safety so it is safe for all,” Councilor Alanna Mallon wrote on Twitter after the approval of the policy order. “This is just the first step, but an important one.”