Back in 2020, a lot of people have been complaining about the state of the police. Last year, Denver, Colorado set up their own policing alternative program called STAR.
You see, many cities have stepped up to the plate to reallocate police funding towards more social programs. These social programs could proactively tackle the root cause of some forms of violence, therefore nipping the need for incarceration in the first place.
Of course, it’s an ideal image, but having an alternative policing program is better than having no programs at all.
STAR stands for Support Team Assistance Response. Within STAR is a team of non-armed mental health workers who help non-dangerous people in need, and have definitely helped out free up time, space, and resources for the police to deal with other matters.
For example, let’s say you had an emergency, but you’re not sure if the situation is serious enough to call the police or you’re worried about what would happen if you called them. Instead, you can call STAR. STAR will likely dispatch a mental health professional, such as a social worker and a paramedic to the scene.
From the sounds of it, these professionals have additional training and expertise in diffusing various kinds of situations.
Back in January 2021, STAR published and released its progress report. In its progress report, it detailed its first six months of operation, and it indicated that well over 748 incidents were attended to.
Out of these 748 incidents, not a single incident required police, and none of them required any jail sentences or any kind of arrest. In fact, STAR averaged close to six incidents per day, whether it was between 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM from Monday to Friday in high-demand and/or at-risk neighborhoods.
Ideally, in the future, this team could get bigger to have more people to dispatch across all these different and emerging non-violent incidents, but on the upside, at least STAR is doing a pretty good job with what they have right now.
The Chief of Police is Paul Razen. According to Paul Razen, the goal of STAR is to be able to service many neighborhoods across many hours (and not just from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM). I mean, an ideal situation would be around-the-clock support.
While the costs of maintaining the program are high, it is a possible reality (for the end of 2021) since Denver has a grant from their sales-tax-funded mental health fund.
The person who co-authored the earlier mentioned report is Matthew Lunn. He had reportedly said:
“I think it shows how much officers are buying into this, realizing that these individuals need a focused level of care.”
If the police are loving this program, I suppose the people may love it too. Plus, if there is a low-level call that civilian teams can respond to, imagine how much time and resources are freed up by the police, especially when some circumstances aren’t serious enough for the police but are serious enough to be addressed by some other professional, like a mental healthcare worker.
In the future, it would be great to see more programs like STAR out there, and it would also be great to see STAR expanded as well, especially with the number of people out there in need. In the future, we can only hope for the best when it comes to the people of Denver, Colorado. I mean, so far, the results are looking great for STAR.