St. Petersburg, Florida police administrators have decided that armed police officers will no longer respond to non-violent non-emergency calls, and non-violent 911 calls. To fill that void, they are creating what they call the Community Assistance Liaison division, which they described as “a social service agency.”
The administration believes that unarmed, Community Assistance Liaison Team Members (CAL), would be a better fit in the new era of perceived police over-aggressiveness with citizens.
According to a St. Petersburg PD press release, beginning October 1, instead of sending a police officer to many calls, a CAL team member will respond.
CAL will begin answering the following calls for service:
- Disorderly intoxication
- Drug overdose
- Intoxicated person
- Mental health crisis
- Suicide crisis
- Mental Health Transport
- Disorderly juvenile/truancy
- Disorderly Juvenile at Elementary Schools
- Homeless complaints
- Neighborhood dispute
They term theses types of calls as “quality-of-life complaints” or “mental health concerns”, and they believe police officers are no longer cut out to handle such incidents.
“Change is coming to St. Pete Police Department,” said Chief of Police Anthony Holloway during a Thursday press conference, referencing the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Holloway said the police department spoke with faith and community groups, protesters and union officials, in the wake of Floyd’s death, and that they all found common ground in understanding that the citizens are “asking for a change”
According to the press release, the City has ordered the reallocation of $3.1 million in federal grant money and $3.8 million set out for new programs to fund the paradigm shift, instead of hiring 25 additional police officers, as was previously planned before Floyd’s death.
Holloway will also be examining his department’s use of force policy and how complaints are handled. He also will mandate doubling de-escalation and self-defense training.
Lastly, a civilian member from a local advocacy group, or from faith group, will be added to the police department’s hiring board.