Albuquerque has created a new Community Safety Department that will deploy unarmed social workers to answer some specific 911 calls. What city leaders are overlooking is that sometimes – actually more often than not – what seems as a routine 911 call can be something else entirely.

The social workers will respond to inebriation, homelessness, addiction, and mental health calls.  The city believes that without the presence of an armed police officer, the situations might de-escalate.  Maybe that could happen on occasion. On the other hand, not having an armed officer at the response can lead to more deaths.

It’s a nice idea. Very … kind. Just saving police for the rough stuff. Unless a call goes sideways and an unarmed social worker is caught in the middle of a cluster, they are not prepared to handle. Social workers are trained for certain things, but not to arrest a drunk person, or handle a half-crazed man on drugs. An unarmed civilian may not have time to casually call the police if a person becomes hostile. You think it can’t happen? It happens all the time.

As reported in the Sacramento Bee, “a 2015 study of officer line-of-duty deaths, 18 percent of officers died responding to disturbance calls, which are typically deemed “non-violent, nuisance crimes,” the study said. Deaths while responding to disturbance calls are second only to domestic dispute calls, which account for 22 percent of officer deaths.”

Deputy Mark Stasyuk, 27, died last week responding to a seemingly routine call at a Rancho Cordova auto parts store that quickly escalated to an “extensive firefight,” authorities said.

(…) Stasyuk and his partner, Julie Robertson, 28, were dispatched to a customer disturbance call at a Pep Boys store. It was the kind of call that former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness described as the “epitome of routine.”

However, within 10 seconds of walking in the door, the two deputies faced a gunfight with suspect Anton Lemon Moore, 38, that left Stasyuk fatally wounded and Robertson shot in the arm. Stasyuk barely had time to react as Moore rounded the checkout counter and opened fire. Hampton said the Sheriff’s Department had to review more video from the incident to know if Stasyuk had time to pull his weapon in response.

“There are times when we respond to those calls, a seemingly innocuous call, and … in seconds you can be fighting for your life,” Hampton said.

The Twitter responses to the mayor’s idea were not positive:


The key point is that “routine” or “or “nuisance” 911 calls can often turn out to be much more. Especially ones that involve drunkenness, someone on drugs, or someone with mental issues.

While it may make sense in some cases to send a social worker to a call along with a police officer, sending a social worker alone to fix a disturbance may result in injury or death of the caller or the social worker. According to many in law enforcement, it’s very dangerous to send a social worker to a 911 “nuisance” call to ask “how does it make you feel?’ without backup.

Parts of this post were first seen at Conservative Firing Line.


unarmed social workers