From Benign to Bigoted: Let’s Stop Abusing 911 Calls

From Benign to Bigoted: Let’s Stop Abusing 911 Calls

Doug Biggs

Almost 40% of calls made to police emergency numbers are for routine, non-emergency issues. Ranging from the benign: “What time does the library open?”) to the bigoted “This person doesn’t look like they belong here.”

These calls distract dispatchers who are trying to triage real emergencies and save people’s lives.

In some cases, the calls invoke a response that can put at risk the lives of people that just need some help and support, not a weaponized response.

Just as arrests, punishment and submission aren’t the solution to all situations, 911 isn’t always the right number to call. The list at the left was a community effort involving lots of people, with particular thanks to

• Jakob Wyrd for posting an initial list of numbers last fall,
• Ryan LaLonde for updating and vastly improving the list to make it user friendly,
• Laura Gamble for organizing printing and distribution of the list, and keeping the rest of us on track, and the many, many community members who responded to the first draft with additional suggestions.
• Sarah Henry and the city, for posting a version of the list at www.whotocallalameda.org

Some are calling this “the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) list” but it’s not.

This list belongs to the community because that’s what neighbors should do to help — share resources and compassion freely.

Use this list, share this list, post this list, and suggest changes and additions to this list. But don’t expect this list to solve all the systemic issues we face.

Think of this list as one more way we are saying “we want to do things differently.”

Doug Biggs is the Executive Director of the Alameda Point Collaborative