(Oakland) – Thursday, Feb 25, Oakland-A coalition of Oakland progressive community organizations, labor groups, and elected officials are united in a demand to bring the Mobile Assistance Community Responders Of Oakland (MACRO) program in-house as an official city program housed within the Fire Department. On Tuesday, March 2nd Oakland City Council will vote on this proposal and it’s crucial that all members of the City Council vote in support of the supplemental put forward by Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan. 

Oakland currently does not provide 24/7 mental health support services for its residents leaving law enforcement as first responders, far too often resulting in incarceration, violence or death. Law Enforcement does not receive adequate training to compassionately or competently respond to these incidents as their training teaches them to use force to neutralize a “target” as quickly as possible, but a person in crisis may be unable to understand instructions or comply quickly enough; unnecessarily escalating a situation. The Anti Police-Terror Project began demanding the redirection of police monies to fund adequate mental health services five years ago, igniting the conversation in Oakland which ultimately resulted in the development of MACRO – which remains in need of actual programming structure and protocols.

“As frontline city workers, our number one priority is keeping the residents of Oakland safe — and MACRO is no exception. Bringing MACRO to OFD ensures that these positions are good, permanent, in-house, union jobs that allow working people to get ahead in Oakland.” said SEIU 1021 City of Oakland Chapter President Felipe Cuevas.

The creation of in-house Oakland City staff civilian response positions would ensure the full development of the program within compassionate and patient-centered paradigms outside of traditional medical models. By keeping MACRO in-house, the public would have oversight of the program and have the ability to monitor compliance. 

“The intersection of mental health crisis, Blackness and law enforcement is too often a deadly cocktail for Black and Brown people going through a mental health crisis in Oakland. The Anti Police-Terror Project currently provides free non police services to folks experiencing mental health crises in the City, through the Mental Health First (MH1) program and we look forward to sharing our best practices with the City” said Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and the Executive Director of the Justice Teams Network, “We are in full support of bringing MACRO in house so that the City has a robust mental health service available to the people of Oakland folks are experiencing a mental health crisis.”

US police officers kill hundreds of people with mental illness every year, including very recently in Antioch, CA. When people experience a major mental health crisis, we should always attempt to approach the situation in the least confrontational way we can. That means trained civilian responders, who pose the least threat to people with mental illness and are the least likely to escalate any interactions. Civilian responders with the correct training understand the risks and the techniques for dealing with them. Civilian responders are better positioned than police to help protect the health and safety of our community, through the use of a method with endurance, effectiveness, accountability and transparency, with in-house positions.

“The MACRO program is the new approach Oakland needs.  By shifting non-criminal, non-violent response calls for service from OPD, we can meet our communities needs without escalation.” Said Councilmember Sheng Thao. “This shift is long overdue. It is essential to establish MACRO as soon as possible and that the program be administered by the City.”  

The Oakland City Council previously approved taking action to work toward doing the t(MACRO) Program with City Of Oakland civilian employees as provided in Resolution No. 88433 CMS. The immediate creation of in-house staff civilian response positions for MACRO is in the best interest of the city and aligns with the interests of labor, and community and health leaders in the City of Oakland.

“It’s very important that we take action to build a meaningful civilian responder program that will have reliability, accountability and is designed to last. By launching civilian responders as in-house staff in partnership with our Fire Department we can provide for these needs for our community and protect public safety and health,” said Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan

There is widespread momentum for this to happen in Oakland. Separately, the Defund Oakland Police Coalition yesterday published an in-depth “Oakland is Reimagining Public Safety” report responding to the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force’s recommendations. In the report they strongly supported the demand to bring MACRO in-house to create safe city jobs.