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Athens-Clarke County Should Improve Crisis Response

As a white, 69-year-old person who owns property in Clarke County, I support our county commission in doing whatever needs to be done to remove the knee from the throats of our communities of color. I support the defunding of the police if this means redirecting a significant amount of the law enforcement budget to fund a totally new department for crisis response. The end result would be to provide 911 dispatchers another alternative to the current three responses available—fire department, police department and EMT. This Athens-Clarke County Crisis Response Department (ACCCRD) would be staffed to the point of being able to respond to multiple situations simultaneously 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A domestic disturbance is reported at a residence: Dispatch the ACCCRD. Gunshots are heard within a residence: Dispatch the ACCPD. A man is reportedly asleep in his car blocking a drive-through restaurant: Dispatch the ACCCRD. A man is reportedly robbing a restaurant: Dispatch the ACCPD. A man is reportedly passing counterfeit money or selling marijuana: Call the ACCCRD to investigate. A man is reportedly running down the street naked: Call the ACCCRD. 

The ACCCRD would have the authority to call in other agencies—fire, police and EMT—if the situation warrants it.

Those who are employed by this newly created Athens-Clarke County Crisis Response Department would be highly trained in the skills of observation and negotiation. They would have their own hierarchy, uniform and arrest powers. They would carry no weapon, but would be trained to use a weapon that is securely kept in the car. They can also help maintain order at UGA football games and downtown events. They can investigate crimes that have already occurred and use the same database as the police. If the Clarke County School District wants to hire law enforcement for the schools, let the officers come from the ACCCRD, not the ACCPD.

Only by creating a crisis response department that is budgeted as an equal partner of what we currently call “law enforcement” will all communities in Athens-Clarke County be protected from the various types of disruptions to the social order.