The city of Denver was already planning to limit the scope of the police before the calls for defunding gained momentum the start of this year. Denver accelerated their plans though, and the results are already so promising that other cities should start copying what Denver has done. Instead of sending out armed forces to help people cope with mental issues, the city is sending out mental health workers. This means that the people who need help are getting it, and the police can do something else.
Since its launch June 1, the STAR van has responded to more than 350 calls, replacing police in matters that don’t threaten public safety and are often connected to unmet mental or physical needs. The goal is to connect people who pose no danger with services and resources while freeing up police to respond to other calls. The team, which is not armed, has not called police for backup, Sailon said.
“We’re really trying to create true alternatives to us using police and jails,” said Vinnie Cervantes with Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, one of the organizations that helped start the program.
Though it had been years in the making, the program launched just four days after protests erupted in Denver calling for transformational changes to policing in response to the death of George Floyd.
“It really kind of proves that we’ve been working for the right thing, and that these ideas are getting the recognition they should,” Cervantes said.