Cambridge City Council members and residents considered the option of having police respond to mental health-related 911 calls and discussed whether officers would man the Cambridge Housing Authority’s LB Johnson Apartments at a meeting on Monday.
Policy Order 7 provides city funding for the Cambridge Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team – a non-profit organization for people in crisis, particularly those with mental health issues – and which engages and trains the organization in city emergency response activities.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, MIT professor Huma Gupta said the council should fund HEART, citing her students’ struggles with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.
“That’s why Syed Faisal’s murder is so shocking and disturbing to my students and myself who struggle with these mental illnesses, because we know it could easily be any of them,” Gupta said.
Lexington resident Ken Reilly said in a public opinion in February 2022 that Lexington police shot and killed his foster son, who Reilly said had “mental health issues.” Reilly was armed with a knife before she was fatally shot, police said.
“I can’t imagine the state of mind he’s in,” Reilly said of his son. “So if you had someone who was skilled, they would know the story and they could shake it off. You would have known this situation with my son.
Most council members said they support Policy Order 7 during the discussion.
Councilwoman Patricia M.
Police were also present at Cambridge housing authority LB Johnson’s apartment in Cambridgeport during a security dispute.
Police were mainly called to the development by elderly residents who felt unsafe in the building’s corridors. Councilman Quinton Yeo Zondervan questioned why it was being used to secure the residence, not personal security, but city police sources.
City Manager Huang responded to Zondervan that private security services are not viable because of poor communication with residents and staff.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a non-police option that could do that? Yes,” Huang said. “We’ve been able to build a really good team in the police department that takes that role and tries to get to know all the people on the street and connect with them? I think they’re doing an amazing job.”
Councilor E. Denise Simmons said the residents’ choice of police protection shows trust between the community and the department.
“Many of our senior citizens, when they think about safety, are the police they go to, and it’s good to know that our senior citizens and many other people in Cambridge feel very comfortable going to the police station,” she said. “So in my opinion, it’s going to be good for us.”
During the meeting, councilors passed policy orders dealing with elevator malfunctions in high-rise buildings, defibrillators in public parks and housing vouchers.
The council will continue discussions on the HEART initiative at its next regular meeting on March 20.
—Staff Secretary Samuel P. Goldstein can be found at email@example.com.