A police officer shot a 13-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder who was suffering from a mental health crisis in Salt Lake City, Utah.
He got serious injuries to his shoulder, ankles, intestines, and bladder.
Golda Barton the boy’s mother said that the police’s reaction was excessive. She said that he is just a small child and a big police officer cannot tackle the kid with all amount of resources.
Because of this and other similar cases over the past few months, Denver, Colorado has started the program where unarmed mental health professionals will respond to matters that don’t threaten public safety but need mental and physical assistance.
On 1st June, Denver’s new Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program hit the streets, and since then it has responded to more than 350 calls which often requires mental or physical needs.
The STAR teams are made up of mental health professionals and paramedics and they are equipped to handle vulnerable people. They responded to the people who are in distress, they have helped people having suicidal thoughts or people who were acting strangely. They have been called out to the trespassers, indecent exposure calls.
STAR and co-responders teams give dispatchers a chance to solve the problem by allowing them to listen to the situation and send those who are best trained to handle the situation.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said that this is the future of law enforcement, taking a public health view on public safety. He said that they want to meet people and to solve whatever problem they are having and to address their issues.
Currently, the STAR program is only working in the central downtown area of the city, but they are hoping to expand it to the city level. Organizers are working to help other municipalities to adopt similar programs.
Vinnie Cervantes with Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, (one of the organizations that helped start the STAR program) said “It kind of proves that we’ve been working for the right thing and that these ideas are getting the recognition they should.”