On April 20, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd in 2020. But Chauvin is only one part of the problem, and America's broken police system isn't changed by his conviction: While Chauvin's trial was underway, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed during a traffic stop. And moments before Chauvin was announced guilty, 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed by a Columbus, OH officer whom she had reportedly called for help.
Part of the problem is that we're conditioned to call the cops during tense situations. Even those who support abolition may not know what other resources are available. But very often, there are other solutions that could better de-escalate a situation. The website Don't Call The Police is a great place to start. This comprehensive directory, sorted by city and emergency, offers numbers for local hotlines and crisis centers.
For example, DCTP includes resources for local and national domestic violence hotlines. This information can be incredibly useful, as many people dealing with domestic violence report feeling reluctant to call the police, and one in three people who did call the police felt less safe after doing so, a 2015 survey by the National Domestic Violence Hotline found.
DCTP also has resources and hotline numbers for dealing with mental health crises. Evidence indicates that mental health professionals and nurses are more effective at helping in these kinds of situations: Eugene, OR has a system in place that sends both a medic and a crisis worker to homes upon receiving a report of erratic behavior. In one year, the team responded to around 24,000 calls, and backup was only required around 150 times. The police, however, are less adept and trained at handling such incidents: In 2020, 97 people were killed by the cops in response to reports of erratic behavior or mental health-related crises, the Police Violence Report states.
If you're in New York, formerly incarcerated software engineers also created an alternative to 911, aptly titled Not911. According to the app's website, Not911 is designed to direct people in crisis to "New York City-based organizations that offer counseling, mediation and intervention services" that don't involve police intervention.
Numbers show that in many cities, police primarily receive calls about nonviolent or life-threatening offenses. It might seem harmless to call a cop for help breaking up a neighbor's party, but the majority of police killings begin with traffic stops, reports of mental health checks, and low-level offenses, according to Mapping Police Violence. Alternatives to the police don't just solve problems; they potentially save lives.
The options listed here aren't perfect solutions. Not911 only operates in New York City and DCTP currently displays resources for a limited list of locations. If your city isn't included, it may be worth doing some prep work to find similar hotlines and resources that are local to you, so you have them on hand if you were ever to need them.
"In this long transition process [to a world without police], we may need a small, specialized class of public servants whose job it is to respond to violent crimes. But part of what we're talking about here is what role police play in our society," writes Minneapolis-based collective MPD150. "Right now, cops don't just respond to violent crimes; they make needless traffic stops, arrest petty drug users, harass Black and Brown people, and engage in a wide range of 'broken windows policing' behaviors that only serve to keep more people under the thumb of the criminal justice system." Changing this will take widespread, intentional action — and that can start with you.