KEY POINTS

  • Mayor Tim Keller of Albuquerque, New Mexico forms the Albuquerque Community Safety department
  • It's part of a push to reform the police, where social workers will respond to some 911 calls instead of cops
  • The city's police department welcomes the change as it will take the burden off their overwhelmed officers

The mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is bringing the "first-of-its-kind" public safety department led by civilian social workers, and they will be tasked to respond to some 911 calls instead of the cops.

Mayor Tim Keller revealed in a press conference Tuesday (June 16) that these social workers are specialists in matters of housing, homelessness, and violence prevention. It's part of Keller's plan to reform law enforcement and reduce the incidence of police brutality, amid the wave of protests over police abuse, by shifting some of their work to this new department, the Albuquerque Community Safety.

48072684203_284ebb78aa_k Mayor Tim Keller of Albuquerque, New Mexico wants social workers to respond to some 911 calls. Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Keller believes that police officers are already overwhelmed by their work "despite their best efforts and despite some training." They are not counselors who can deal with social issues like child abuse, intoxication, addiction, or mental health.

"There is a huge portion of our community that doesn’t necessarily want two officers showing up when they call about a situation with respect to behavioral and mental health," the mayor said in his interview with The Washington Post. "So this is a new path forward for us that has been illuminated because of what we’ve learned during these times."

The mayor also said that people calling 911 would expect to have the police or first responders during emergencies, especially if there’s a violent incident. However, Albuquerque will no longer ask the police department to "do more without giving them the resources,” according to Fox News. Their focus will be strictly limited to crimes of violence.

Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier said that he and his officers welcome the initiative as a relief. He believes that this move will not overburden the police officers.  He also hopes that the rest of the country will find similar solutions.