So, in effect, un-uniformed government contractors will be taking away non-violent individuals in unmarked vehicles.
Nearly a decade after creating the Black Lives Matter organization, and after more than a year since the onset of the COVID lockdowns, and the subsequent wave of riots that swept the nation, some American municipalities are transitioning away from traditional policing. For this and other related reasons, the United States is now in the midst of a crime wave.
However, rising criminality is not the only consequence of the social shift and perhaps not the most dangerous one. Another new phenomenon is the increased involvement of social workers in on-the-street policing. This development is worth watching.
For instance, the City Council of Alameda, CA, eager to ‘reimagine’ policing, voted for a pilot program aimed at unconventionally addressing non-violent mental health emergencies:
An un-uniformed firefighter paramedic and EMT would respond to the call in an unmarked car. Later, a mental health or social worker would help the person with follow-up services.
‘They will not be showing up in firefighter gear, there are no lights. The whole idea is to de-escalate,” said Alameda Councilmember John Knox White, who voted in favor of the pilot.
The contractor in question, the San Francisco-based Felton Institute, reassured the City Council that its employees had de-escalation training and other police techniques, including administering 5150 holds—putting individuals in a state of a mental health emergency under a 72-hour involuntary hold. So, in effect, un-uniformed government contractors will be taking away non-violent individuals in unmarked vehicles.
Similar programs are already in place in San Francisco and several other cities in the Bay Area. However, while employing plain-clothed professionals and unmarked vehicles, these programs are run through police and fire departments.
This emergent policing by social worker reality raises some questions. From the mental health point of view, is it beneficial for an emotionally vulnerable individual to know that he can be taken away in any car? Would it not increase anxiety and paranoia? Felton Institute boasts hiring people with “lived experience” of addiction and homelessness. No doubt, the company can go beyond “lived experience” and cite longitudinal studies that confirm the effectiveness of this practice.
From the civil libertarian point of view, if the state deprives an individual of liberty, especially if this is a non-violent individual, shouldn’t the people and organizations involved in this act be identified and identifiable? If the goal of police abolitionists is to hold those in power accountable, shouldn’t the agents of the state be marked as such? And if they are taking away individuals who cannot give consent, shouldn’t the public know that the state is detaining the individual?
I realize that deinstitutionalization has been a disaster for our country and want to see conservatorship expanded. I also want clear and fair rules for handling mental health episodes. Considering that mental illness can be politicized (Soviet punitive psychiatry is probably the best example), I am deeply concerned that, intentionally or not, the City of Alameda might be running a pilot program for a massive repression apparatus.DONATE
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