The Community Responder Model

How Cities Can Send the Right Responder to Every 911 Call

By Amos Irwin and Betsy Pearl
The Community Responder Model
Getty/The Boston Globe/Nicholas Pfosi

An employee answers calls at the Essex County Regional Communications Center in Middleton, Massachusetts, on June 22, 2017.

Executive summary

Today, a significant portion of 911 calls are related to quality-of-life and other low-priority incidents that may require a time-sensitive response but are better suited to civilian responders, rather than armed police officers. Some 911 calls may not require a time-sensitive response at all. Recent original analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) examined 911 police calls for service from eight cities and found that 23 to 39 percent of calls were low priority or nonurgent, while only 18 to 34 percent of calls were life-threatening emergencies. While many 911 calls do merit an emergency police response, unnecessarily dispatching armed officers to calls where their presence is unnecessary is more than just an ineffective use of safety resources; it can also create substantially adverse outcomes for communities of color, individuals with behavioral health disorders and disabilities, and other groups who have been disproportionately affected by the American criminal justice system.

Get the Latest on Criminal Justice