This startup is building a 911 alternative for calls that don’t need t

4 years in the past, when an Oakland-based startup known as Raheem launched an app that anybody might use to doc interactions with the police—the primary impartial nationwide instrument of its variety—it aimed to tackle the issue of police brutality. However the nonprofit’s workforce later realized that it wanted to take a fully totally different strategy.

“We’ve documented and analyzed greater than 2,500 reviews about individuals’s experiences with police, and so they vary from bodily abuse, patterns of neglect, and psychological and verbal abuse,” says Brandon D. Anderson, Raheem’s founder. “I assumed that with the precise instrument, or no less than the precise partnerships, we might maintain police accountable. I wasn’t actually asking myself, although, what wouldn’t it take to maintain cops from killing individuals within the first place?”

Brandon D. Anderson [Photo: Gioncarlo Valentine]

The reply, he concluded, was to seek out methods to attach individuals to assist in a disaster with out having to contain the police in any respect. “Violence and terror isn’t a flaw of policing, it’s the operate of police,” he says. “Police reform has solely been extraordinarily profitable at one factor, and that’s deterring individuals residing in concern from reimagining security altogether.”

The nonprofit is now building an app that residents can use to name for assist from locations apart from 911, whereas concurrently connecting a community of police abolitionist teams, group organizations, and cell disaster groups that might be ready use the app as a dispatching instrument.


A rising variety of organizations are already doing this sort of work. In Sacramento and Oakland, California, for instance, a challenge known as MH First connects skilled volunteers with individuals who need assist throughout psychological well being crises. Calling the police in a scenario like this may be lethal, as within the case of Steven Taylor, a 33-year-old Black man identified with schizophrenia and bipolar dysfunction who was shot and killed by an officer final yr when Taylor was behaving erratically and carrying a baseball bat inside a Walmart retailer close to Oakland. In a single evaluation of police killings, greater than one in five victims had a psychological sickness.

In Minneapolis, a group group known as Revolutionary Emergency Partners presents a hotline for nonviolent emergencies, from noise and neighbor complaints to psychological well being crises. Different organizations supply hotlines and disaster intervention for victims of home violence. Related teams exist throughout the nation. An internet site known as Don’t Call the Police presents a checklist of sources by metropolis.

However it’s difficult for the teams to coordinate responders. “There are a lot of computer-aided dispatching companies, however these dispatching companies are usually out of attain for organizations who’re serving communities in need, typically, as a result of they’re overpriced . . . or they require a lot of your time and coaching,” Anderson says (organizations that use Raheem received’t pay any charge). Raheem is now piloting an early model of its app with a few companion organizations, and plans to roll out a beta model with extra organizations early subsequent yr, which can finally result in a cell app that anybody can use to name for assist.

The group is additionally working to assist communities perceive the need for an alternative to policing. “We perceive how arduous it is for individuals to maneuver from police reform to the top of policing altogether,” Anderson says. “And I believe we actually don’t anticipate individuals to maneuver just because we’ve got a compelling useful resource, both. We all know that a part of our work is serving to individuals to know our evolution.”