UW-Madison student gov gets in on the left's 'defund the police' action

The University of Wisconsin Madison student government passed legislation to establish a crisis response team that would respond to mental health emergencies, rather than police.

The move comes amid nationwide "defund the police" efforts in several major cities.

The student government at the University of Wisconsin-Madison passed legislation that would establish a crisis response team trained to respond to mental health emergencies, rather than police.

The Associated Students of Madison passed legislation outlining a crisis response team that would take the University of Wisconsin Police Department's place in responding to mental health-related emergencies.

As reported by The Daily Cardinalthe crisis response team would be called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets) and would provide 24/7 response to mental-health-related emergency calls. Each team would include either a nurse or EMT, as well as a crisis worker with several years of experience in mental health issues. Mental health-related emergencies would be under the jurisdiction of CAHOOTS, rather than UWPD.

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ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick told The Daily Cardinal that “if we're really true to equity, we're really true to these values, and towards listening to students who are having these experiences, we need to design a model in which we just reimagine the entire system.”

The ASM believes CAHOOTS will be better equipped than UWPD to handle mental health emergencies. 

“[CAHOOTS] is a way to have a non-law enforcement response to mental health-related 911 calls,” said Mitnick.

The legislation presented at the January 26 meeting claimed that UWPD has a “long history of abuse and racism,” in mental health-related emergencies.

The Madison Police Department requested assistance from UWPD in response to protests at the Madison State Capitol in May, according to details of UWPD’s spending that are included in the ASM legislation. These details show purchases of handguns and pepper spray amid riots and protests during summer 2020.

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“We document the protest behavior, the stocking up of weapons, to demonstrate the lack of trust that students on this campus have in UWPD, and why we feel that it would not be appropriate for them to respond to calls if this is how they responded to their own students demonstrating for racial justice,” Mitnick said.

The information included in the legislation is intended to show the lack of student confidence in UWPD as a result of these events and purchases.

The student government's vote does not in and of itself create the crisis response team to replace the police. However, UW-Madison appears to be open to the idea. 

UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas told Campus Reform, "UW-Madison is working to improve the campus response to individuals experiencing mental health crises and is looking to a collaborative model as a best practice." 

"Separate from the ASM initiative...our University Health Service Mental Health Services, UWPD, University Housing and our Dean of Students Office are developing a comprehensive plan and are engaging with students and other stakeholders," Lucas added.

The Associated Students of Madison did not reply to a request for comment in time for publication.

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