PHOENIX — Following a unanimous vote from the Phoenix City Council, Phoenix police will now be partnering with Arizona State University on a new initiative.
The new proposal will focus on who is the most qualified to respond to a call, whether that be a police officer or a mental health crisis counselor.
It's a program that Phoenix police Sgt. Ann Justus believes is a win for officers, policing, and the people they're sworn to protect.
“Blue suit is not always the answer,” she said.
She said when someone calls 911, sometimes it's because that person does not know whom else to call.
“So that they can dig deep and look through our data and look through our calls that we go on, ee what calls take a lot of resources from our officers,” she said of the pilot program with ASU.
Analyzing the data through an academic lens will help them better assess what resources — whether that's an officer or a mental health advocate — to send to each call.
“This is going to help us look at our data, determine, hey are these calls we maybe shouldn’t be going on from the start?" she said.
Currently, the program will run for a year.
“It’s no secret the Phoenix Police Department is in a staffing shortage, and we are trying to be creative with the way that we can most appropriately deploy the resources we have to the best of our ability,” she said.
The program will cost an estimated $76,000 and if successful, can be renewed for another year.
The Funding will come out of the 2021-22 general fund budget, which has already been set aside for police reforms.
“It’s going to get people the services they need sooner. It’s going to let people that need police, get them sooner. We never lose when we gain more information,” Sgt. Justus said.
As for when Phoenix Police will apply the information gathered from the data, Sgt. Justus said that could happen before the year's end or after the new year.