City leaders agree on additional funding for alternative response pilot program

DAYTON — Dayton city leaders are putting forth more money for a pilot program that changes the way police respond to emergency calls for help.

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the Mediation Response Program will change the way police respond to 911 calls that come into the dispatch center.

Nan Whaley, Dayton Mayor, told News Center 7′s Mike Campbell that the pilot program will be the first step in focusing police officers on police work and mental health or mediation workers on mental health of dispute-type calls.

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“This is about community priorities,” Whaley said.

The program was on of the top recommendations from the community engagement working group as part of the city’s police reform efforts.

The seminars held by the consultant putting the pilot program in place said as many as 54 percent of calls to 911 might be handled differently. Instead of police responding to a scene, it could be a trained intervention specialist.

While city commissioners already approved $150,000 for the plan, they approved another $75,000 on Wednesday.

Joseph Abrams, of Dayton, said he believes the program could save lives, but questioned the amount of money the city is putting forth.

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“$225,000 just for consulting and you look down and the consultant is being paid $250 an hour?” Abrams said.

Whaley said the program was not “that big of a sum” when you think of the police department’s budget as a whole.

According to Whaley, the pilot program will only operate one shift a day, on weekdays.

With the new alternative response model, people involved in 911 calls might not be going to jail. Instead, they might be brought to an area hospital for physical or psychological help, or get an out-patient appointment for counseling or mediation.