The city of Hartford plans to create a team of civilians to respond to some calls for service for issues like mental illness, emotional distress, trauma, and addiction, taking some of the burden off local law enforcement.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin made the announcement Thursday afternoon and he was joined by several local officials.
The city intends to create a team of trained civilians to respond to these types of calls to support people in need and avoid unnecessary escalation.
In the next four years, the city will commit $5 million for the program to scale up the team, according to the mayor.
Bronin said the city needs police and it needs be staffed, but police are being asked to do too much and they might not be the right ones to respond to some calls.
He said the city cannot move responsibilities away from police without having a system in place to answer those calls.
Bronin said the civilian team could respond to some calls on their own or respond with police and ultimately could save some money.
He said the city will be looking at other models of existing systems when designing the best model for Hartford in the weeks and months ahead.
"This is something we should be proud to announce today," Hartford City Council Majority Leader Thomas J. Clarke said.
The city’s announcement comes amid calls across the country to defund police departments after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was handcuffed and on the ground when a white police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Hartford’s city council voted last week to reallocate some of the police department’s budget to social services. Read more about that here.
"I think last week was a seminal moment in the city of Hartford," Councilman Nick Lebron said.
"We are taking the right step in the right direction," he said, adding the city can great a "system of care," and connect people in the city with a broader network of care.