Last week, WW wrote about public safety unions' objections to a city of Portland plan to change the way it responds to 911 calls ("An Injury to One," WW, Nov. 27, 2019). Uniformed, armed police officers or firefighters currently respond to non-emergency calls. The plan by City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty would create a new first-responder system of one specifically trained firefighter and a contracted crisis worker. The police and firefighter unions tried to block a City Council vote on the plan and have threatened legal action. Here's what readers had to say.
Anne Wolke, via Twitter: "So it's almost like they're not concerned with public safety at all. It's all about funding."
Shady Daes, via Facebook: "I am on the side of unions for now, but not for the reasons listed. This push should not be made for the response teams until at least 12 teams have been hired. Two people cannot attend to that many people in crisis."
Diet_pepis, via Twitter: "That's rich coming from the people who've taken every opportunity for a decade or more to complain that 'we're not mental health professionals, we're not trained for that.'"
Thomas Palmer, via Facebook: "Or unionize the mental health workers involved…"
Jon Agee, via Twitter: "Unions—please protect jobs with fair pay and good benefits. Stay out of the way of improving public safety policy."
CGS, via wweek.com: "The first responders should be the police. Then, if the situation warrants, hand off to social workers. How can dispatchers who are not on the scene decide if a situation is dangerous to public safety, or if the offender just needs social services?"
Colleen, via Twitter: "Mental health crises need to be dealt with by mental health professionals. Full stop."
Liz Desiree, via Facebook: "I can see why the police and fire department might have reservations. The program could be incredible, but it's lacking the connections it needs to be successful."
Katie Maxfield, via Facebook: "The unions are doing their job and sticking up for their people. It just looks like what's best for their people isn't what's best for the community as a whole."
Kevin, via wweek.com: "Instead of looking at what's most efficient and effective, the response by the powers that be is 'How do we maintain our turf?' If you were to pull together a group of experts with no skin in the game, the outcome would not be the current emergency response system. Period."