The BetaGov team in the Litmus program released findings of a pragmatic field test of a “Situation Table,” a coordinated community response where law enforcement agencies rely heavily on healthcare and service providers to address the needs of community members at acute elevated risk. These are community members who present multiple risk factors that put them or others at risk of imminent and significant harm. Situation Table participants include representatives from law enforcement, first responders, behavioral health, community supervision, social services, health and human services, and community advocacy groups, who collaboratively review situations of acute risk and determine which agency(ies) will be responsible for providing interventions and resources. This experiment found that community members who were referred for services through the Situation Table had significantly fewer police interactions in the twelve-month followup period than those who were managed with routine practices. The BetaGov team supports practitioners in conducting research of interest to them.
“We in policing need to reimagine our profession. The historic firm lines of ‘areas of responsibility’ have been detrimental to our community safety and well-being. Our programs need to be rigorously reviewed, and we need to target, test, and track what we do to determine the most efficient and effective activities for the police to be engaging in. We need to be working alongside our community to provide policing with them, not to them,” notes Rich Johnston (Inspector, Investigative Services, in Barrie, Ontario), the pracademic who partnered with BetaGov to lead this study.
This Situation Table research is relevant to enforcement and social-sector agencies across Canada, the United States, and the globe, as communities search for alternatives to incarceration that improve the well-being of members of the community without compromising public safety.