Aurora could get a program like Denver’s that removes police from certain 911 calls

The city is exploring a pilot program similar to Support Team Assisted Response, or STAR, in Denver.

The Support Team Assisted Response van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Support Team Assisted Response van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Aurora could start removing police from certain 911 call responses, replacing them with paramedics and social workers.

On Friday, the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response announced it’s been working with Aurora City Council members since January to discuss how they could bring such a program to the city. It’s modeled after the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets program in Eugene, Oregon. The goal of CAHOOT is to provide “a more appropriate and more humane” approach to crisis intervention for people experiencing homelessness and mental health and substance use disorders.

Vinnie Cervantes of DASHR said activists and a delegation of local lawmakers visited Eugene last year to start figuring out how to bring a similar program to Denver.

“The biggest thing is just having some kind of alternative,” to police, Cervantes said. “I think there’s this general understanding that (police) are not the best thing to cover all these issues.”

The agency advocated for and helped create the Support Team Assisted Response, or STAR, pilot program in Denver, which has been operating since June. The program launched as national protests against racism and police brutality were ongoing and has been held up as a way to “dismantle police,” as some advocates and protesters call to defund law enforcement.

Aurora police have been involved in several-high profile incidents involving use of force. The city has hired a firm to complete a comprehensive review of the department’s policies and practices.

Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly called the pilot program a viable option for the city. He noted Aurora has a co-responder program in which cops undergo mental health training and are accompanied by mental health clinicians during certain calls.

City council will eventually consider the program during a meeting.

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