Trained intervention specialists to be tested in major part of Dayton police reform

DAYTON — The city of Dayton and its police department are preparing to test a major part of police reform by using trained intervention specialists instead of police officer for alternative responses to some calls.

The city plans to run the pilot program after working with consultants to look at the changes that could be made.

“It’s a big change, maybe the biggest change we are trying to get done through police reform, its going to take the longest time,” said Mayor Nan Whaley.

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911 dispatchers handle hundreds of calls a day, many of those from Dayton. But now, it might not be an officer in a cruiser responding to those calls as part of the new alternative response model.

The change is not as easy as buying body cameras and their equipment, and it will change the way many conflicts are handled in the city.

“A better fit for response to non-violent disputes,” said Daniel Kornfield, one of the consultants the city have worked with in developing the pilot program.

Adding a trained mobile crisis intervention team to the traditional dispatching of police and fire will be something dispatchers will be trained on to determine which calls fit which kind of response.

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“One thing any first responder will tell you, you don’t know what call you’re going to until you get there,” Kornfield said.

Kornfield is the executive director at Dignity Best Practices, a consulting firm that helps cities innovate where public safety and public health intersect, according to its website.

“Dignity helps city agencies in challenging areas of focus including mental health crisis response, gun violence reduction, jail diversion, community involvement, collaborations between social workers, firefighter EMTs, medical professionals, and police officers, and alternatives to conventional police and/or ambulance response,” the company’s website reads.

A few examples of incidents that might call for intervention specialists, but not police officers, could include noise and pet complaints, juvenile disturbances not involving weapons, loitering and begging complaints.

“We will also have the ability to check, is this a place with a history of violence in the past? If that’s the case, wed rather send the police to that call,” Kornfield said.

The mobile crisis response teams will be on the same radio system as police and firefighters, another form of protection, they could call for help or additional resources immediately.

The largest portion of calls the intervention team might eventually handle are those involving mental health.

“Which is the majority of police calls, if you think about it, so it is a dramatic change in policing,” Whaley said.

It’s possible initial mental health calls would be met with a dual response at first, for safety reasons, and for follow up help.

“Often you can show up as a police officer and de-escalate but that doesn’t mean you’ve solved the root issue,” Kornfield said.

Dayton City Commissioners expect the pilot program to be in place sometime in January covering one shift per day. If successful, it could be expanded to a 24-hour operation every day.

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