Students, community share stories, ideas for an alternative police response program

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Thursday, February 8, 2024
NCSU students, community discuss alternative response program
Several dozen North Carolina State University students and members of the community met to discuss alternative responses to traditional policing.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Several dozen North Carolina State University students and members of the community met inside the Talley Student Union on Wednesday to discuss alternative responses to traditional policing.

The 90-minute program was hosted by the City of Raleigh's community engagement team.

While there is no specific program that would be exclusive to the Wolfpack community, those in attendance were able to hear from the community engagement team on ways the alternative response program operates.

Attendees were invited during the presentation to share their personal stories about encounters with police or mental health episodes that required intervention.

Under the alternative response program, members of a community response team -- made up of social workers, peer support specialists, and EMS personnel work in tandem to provide de-escalation practices for those in need of immediate attention and connect them to community resources.

For example, if someone is experiencing a mental health episode, the framers of the alternative response program would view that as an opportunity to become involved; instead of asking for police to immediately respond.

"A program like this needs to be community-centered and community-led. They already know the community wants this. So we have to push them and to actually fund the program and to keep it running and give it the resources it needs to thrive. It's really up to us raising our voices to our representatives to get what we want to see out of it," Brea Perry of Refund Raleigh said.

According to a study by the American Psychological Association, some 20% of all law enforcement calls in the United States involve a mental health component.

Currently, the City of Raleigh uses the Addressing Crisis Through Outreach Referrals Networking and Service (ACORNS) program as a means of an alternative response. Durham, on the other hand, uses the HEART program which is the acronym for Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Team.

"I will never call the police knowing that ACORNS exists," one woman said.

In the event of an incident that calls for an alternative response, the program's existence does not serve as a replacement for traditional policing. Instead, the program is designed to get people the help they need.

"I would advocate for (the program) to be separate from public safety just so there's some extra protection. Not just those in public safety, but those who might be challenged with going to public safety in a mental health crisis. I think as an intimate partner, violence survivor. This is a key part. Is that in the umbrella of mental health services but also has other things? So I think this program really acknowledges that there is a diversity of need and that it could be a flexible program to kind of bridge other programs and other communities," - Jenny Gilmore said.

The presentation comes as NC State has dealt with several student deaths among the student body since the 2022-2023 school year.

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WATCH | Mother of NC State student who died inside her dorm shares her grief

Skye Barnes died inside her dorm at Sullivan Hall on the campus of NC State University on February 11, 2023.