TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - George Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests and calls to defund police departments across the country, including here in southern Arizona.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero responded to those calls with the proposal of a Community Safety Pilot Program that re-imagines how community safety is provided to Tucsonans.
“Not every call needs a police officer with a gun,” Romero said.
In July 2020, the Tucson City Council voted unanimously to adopt the program.
Romero said the death of Floyd and then closer to home, the in-custody death of Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez, prompted her idea for the program.
“With Carlos Adrian, he was going through a mental health episode, a drug-induced episode that we could have provided services to him in a different manner, " Romero said.
Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus agrees that officers do not need to respond to every 911 call.
“There is work that police are currently responding to that could be better done by individuals with other kinds of expertise and knowledge,” Magnus said.
Individuals like social workers or mental health experts.
“I would like us to get to be able to get to a co-response model for certain things and then for other things to be able to completely hand them off,” Magnus said.
Romero said this program will not only focus on who responds to emergency calls but will also look at how to invest in preventative measures in areas like mental health and housing.
“It is a huge undertaking, but we are hoping that within the City of Tucson and all of the different services that we have, we can create this Community Safety Pilot Program that will deliver better results for Tucsonans,” Romero said.
The city council is scheduled to discuss updates to the program in its study session next week.
Just within the last few weeks, the city hired a deputy city manager who will help usher in this effort in coordination with Mayor Romero.