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Help for police — and all of us

Plattsburg Press-Republican

The city of Baltimore enacted a plan June 1 to change its public-safety response to a more effective strategy.

When someone places a call to the police, the call will be directed to someone with a more specialized expertise in resolving the problem.

For example, if a store is being held up, police officers will be dispatched. On the other hand, if the caller is contemplating suicide, a mental-health professional will be summoned. A behavioral-health non-profit organization will contract to answer all 911 calls.

It is part of an effort by the city to provide a broader range of safety to its citizens, and it would certainly seem to be something of a prototype for what public safety will look like all over the country, eventually.

As it is now, Americans are used to calling police for anything that goes wrong in their lives. In Plattsburgh, police have been asked to remove skunks from back yards and react to people with serious behavioral health issues, as well as violence in a tavern.

And those calls are very common. They don’t include the extremely odd, almost unheard-of events everyday life can deal out.

We have immense respect for all of our police agencies, which have to confront all manner of dangers that we, as civilians, can’t or don’t want to engage.

But let’s be realistic: Police officers are not psychiatrists, or zoologists.

We have been enlisting their help in some situations in which they may have no more experience or training than we, ourselves, have.

It’s frightening to imagine what we would do without them, but it is time for us to admit we have been demanding more of them than we should expect them to deliver.

Baltimore is taking a very prudent and long overdue step.

However, we are not Baltimore. We are Rouses Point, Plattsburgh and Ticonderoga, and every place in between.

Baltimore, with a population of 609,032, is the largest city in Maryland — more like New York City than the village of Saranac Lake. It has resources at is disposal that we in the North Country don’t.

But that doesn’t mean that we as individuals and communities shouldn’t be planning, imagining, devising ways to protect ourselves in new ways.

A pistol or a taser on the hip is not the only appropriate response to an emergency, and we should be figuring out how to acquire or adapt new ways to safeguard against every conceivable crisis.

The BOLA wrap local police are now considering is one new perhaps safer way of detaining suspects.

One day, all Americans will have the right response to all potential mayhem. Police and physical confrontation, as reassuring as they may be to us, are not always the perfect fit for our crisis.

They are our solution now, but we must hope for more-specialized answers in the future.

Baltimore [broke] crucial ground for us all June 1. We impatiently look forward to the day when this region can follow its example.

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