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Seattle Councilman Wants to Defund the Police for EMS

Photo/Seattle Fire Department

A Seattle (WA) councilmember said he wants the city to create and fund a new mental health and substance addiction first-responder program with unarmed medics and crisis workers.

Andrew Lewis said he will divert funding from the police to fund his new program, which is based on a Eugene, Oregon, program called Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets (CAHOOTS).

“When a building is on fire we send the fire department. When someone has a stroke we send an ambulance,” Lewis said in a statement. “Why do we send armed police to help someone in a mental health or drug-related crisis? By the most conservative estimates one in every four people fatally shot by a police officer has a mental illness. This has to stop.”

The proposal in Seattle comes amid a time where there are calls to defund the police in favor of more social programs.

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CAHOOTS handled more than 24,000 calls in 2019, which is about 20% of the calls dispatched by 911, the organization said. CAHOOTS teams called for police backup 250 times.

Lewis’ legislation is still in early stages of development.