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A great program for better policing in Santa Cruz?

Medics and mental health counselors team up to form a mobile crisis team in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo Mail Tribune)

CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) is a mobile crisis intervention program that responds to situations in the streets requiring mental health assistance, de-escalation, and other help usually assigned to social workers. The program is meant to unburden the police, allowing them to do the their work, crime prevention and intervention in case of violent situations. This program is successfully implemented in Eugene, Oregon (

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, this program was suggested for Santa Cruz, to help the police cope with the problems associated with homelessness, and with issues of race. But City Council rejected an opportunity to explore CAHOOTS because it may be premature and costly. It is neither.

Instead, on the agenda in today’s City Council meeting, is the Police’s own suggestions for reform, none of which involve the critical addition of social and mental health workers. And with no budget cuts, on the contrary. The report is expected to close all further discussion and alternative.

The Santa Cruz Police has its own solution for dealing with unruly citizens, especially those living on the streets and in vehicles. In December 2018, the police announced a new program called Volunteers in Policing which is a brigade of 31 trained civilian volunteers who are deputized to, among other tasks, enforce parking violations. In other words, on behalf of the police, to ticket people living in vehicles to such an extent that they will never be able to pay the fees and never get out of their circumstances.

When will the public be consulted for matters as important as these? Why would we pick a brigade of potential vigilantes instead of a combination of police and peaceful and empathetic workers?


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