Nationwide protests following the police-custody death of George Floyd have included calls to redirect money out of police departments and into social services.
Now, there’s a proposal in Prince George’s County, Maryland, that would do that.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is asking the county council to divert $20 million in the capital budget away from building a portion of the new police/public safety training facility and instead use those funds to help build a facility for mental health and addiction.
“I believe that this facility will be one that our community not only wants but deserves,” Alsobrooks said.
Seventy percent of the people arrested in the county are intoxicated when taken to jail, Alsobrooks said, and an estimated one-third suffer from mental health problems.
“We ask officers in many instances to do work they should never be asked to do,” she said. “They are not mental health professionals. They are not addictions counselors.”
Police officers, she said, are not qualified to deal with mentally ill or intoxicated people the same way that mental health professionals are.
“I’ve been talking about this for the last several years — how unjust it is for any community to decide that it is preferable to treat those who suffer from either addictions or who suffer from mental illness in a jail,” Alsobrooks said.
The proposed capital budget shift already has support on the council, she said. She’ll ask the council to approve the enabling legislation later this week.
If approved, county voters would see a related bond request in November.