Police oversight commission recommends crisis response funding increase

“LETAC” to make first recommendation after 9 months of ‘listening & learning’
KKTV 11 News this Morning
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 8:24 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Colorado Springs’ Law Enforcement Transparency and Accountability Commission, known as “LETAC,” will present their first recommendation to city council in a Monday night meeting.

After nine months of “listening and learning,” the panel’s first recommendation asks city council to add about $210,000 in annual funding to what LETAC officials refer to as “crisis response teams”.

The recommendation document reads, “We should further expand the program to address unmet needs in the community.” It explains, while there has been praise for crisis response teams from some people in the community, “LETAC has also heard assertions of calls for service where lack of crisis response team availability — in addition to burdening public resources — produced less than optimal results for community members and law enforcement responders.”

Right now, no full team is on call between midnight and 10 a.m., daily.

When asked about LETAC’s recommendation, A Colorado Springs Police Department spokesperson wrote to KKTV, “The LETAC proposal is very broad and voices support for increased staffing for the CRT in 2022. The Colorado Springs Police Department and the Colorado Springs Fire Department still need to meet to identify what is needed in 2022 to provide increased mental health and behavioral health support to our community. We are not sure at this time if that will be an additional CRT time slot or if we utilize a modified structure. The current Community Response Teams (not Crisis Response Teams) responds to calls for service where individuals are known to be in crisis and need mental/behavioral health assistance. CRT’s use of responders from different disciplines with diverse expertise increases our ability to develop constructive relationships with frequent callers and to help individuals in crises access the mental health resources they need for a long-lasting impact.”

There are currently four teams made up of a law enforcement officer, along with mental health and medical experts. The recommendation suggests changing the model to something similar to the Denver’s STAR Program. Another suggestion is to remove law enforcement officers from some crisis response teams while adding more mental health experts and paramedics. Officials say, many calls the teams respond to don’t have a “crime” element, but rather focus on mental health and medical needs.

The recommendation document lists “reductions in arrests, incarceration, and recidivism ... along with declines in instances of use of force,” as benefits and justification.

City Councilwoman Yolanda Avila said, “Over the long run we can find sustainable funding to create these teams and support a lot of our population, especially those ultra users that are calling once or twice a week, every week.”

These teams already get about $1.2 Million a year, of which about 60% comes from the city and 40% from grants.

No action will be taken at the 6 p.m. meeting Monday. City council will hear a presentation from LETAC Chair Janice Frazier and Vice Chair Steve Kern. City council will consider it and decide before approving the 2022 budget this fall. You can listen in to the work session by clicking here and following the prompts on the city’s website.

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