Oakland rolls out MACRO program to ease burden of 911 calls for police

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
Oakland rolls out MACRO program to ease burden of 911 calls for police
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Oakland has launched a program aimed to ease the burden of 911 calls for police related to non-violent emergencies like mental health issues and wellness checks called Oakland’s Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO).

Rolled out on April 9, MACRO is an 18-month pilot program housed within the city’s Fire Department and consists of three teams working two shifts during its 16 hours of coverage seven days a week.

Intended MACRO Outcomes

Oakland’s City Council modeled their MACRO program after Eugene, Oregon’s Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) model. CAHOOTS has been servicing Eugene for the last 30 years and diverts 3-8% of calls from police to be handled by teams consisting of a medic (nurse or EMT) and an experienced crisis worker.

In 2021, CAHOOTS was dispatched to 16,479 calls for service.

Oakland’s City Council hopes that MACRO has the same type of impact. Their stated goals are;

  • Decreased negative outcomes from law enforcement response to nonviolent 911 emergency calls, especially among Black, Indigenous and People of Color; 
  • Increased connections to community-based services for people in crisis, especially among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; 
  • Reduced Oakland Police Department & Oakland Fire Department expenses and call volume related to 911 nonviolent calls involving people with mental health, substance use, and unsheltered individuals. 
  • Redirection of MACRO-identified 911 calls to an alternative community response system; 

Oakland’s Black population is 23.75%, almost double the U.S. average of 13.4%.

Cities Across the U.S. Introducing Similar Programs

Along with CAHOOTS in Eugene, cities across the U.S. have introduced similar programs to try and ease the burden of non-violent 911 calls from police departments.

San Francisco launched the Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT) a year and a half ago.

Denver launched the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program almost two years ago and has seen an overwhelming amount of positive results. STAR has responded to thousands of calls that normally would have been dispatched to police, and has never called for police back up due to a safety issue, even with STAR workers being unarmed.

MACRO’s 18-month pilot program costs about $16M to fund, and depending on its success the City Council could vote to make it a permanent program.

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