'Don’t Call The Police' Website Provides Alternative Emergency Resources In Southeast Wisconsin
Typically, the police are called when someone believes there’s an emergency or a crime has been committed. But not all emergencies require the police. In some cases, there are alternatives to calling 911 like for a mental health crisis or a person experiencing homelessness.
Mallory Sepler-King wanted people to know about those alternatives and help people find them quickly and easily. So last summer, she created a website called dontcallthepolice.com. It provides resources for all kinds of situations, she says, where calling the police might not be the safest or most useful option. The site lists organizations in over 70 cities including Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha.
“I know that not all people feel safe calling the police and we know that people may not want to call them even when there’s a situation they need help with, and the main mission of our site is to really make sure that [people know] that help is available when they need it and they can access it through our site and they will be safe,” Sepler-King explains.
When the site first rolled out last summer, Milwaukee wasn’t included on the list of cities. Sepler-King says it was the first request she got for a city to add. After making the addition to the website, she says she posted the link to social media with a graphic featuring the Milwaukee Art Museum and the reception was positive. Not only did people share the graphic but they commented about endorsements of the resources on her list and ideas for more additions.
One organization Sepler-King has seen particular love for is Pathfinders, a nonprofit that serves youth in the Milwaukee area.
“One of the resources that we have on the Milwaukee page is a resource for youth called Pathfinders and we have gotten many people reaching out to us to tell us how wonderful that resource has been and that’s always really cool to hear,” she says.
Sepler-King says that for people who are in immediate danger or who see others in imminent harm, calling 911 is still usually the best choice but the point of the website is to show the vast network of resources outside of police officers.
“I hope people in Milwaukee use this to find the appropriate number to call and to help sort of reprogram themselves away from what we as a society have learned, which is call the police for everything,” she says.
As a part of the growing calls to reform policing in the U.S., Sepler-King says dontcallthepolice.com shows that alternatives to police don’t have to be imagined or created from nothing — they already exist. She hopes showing people the resources that exist can be a catalyst for change when it comes to efforts of reforming or defunding police departments.
“What the site does is provide, sort of, a road map. Like, look, all of these organizations are already here doing this work, it’s not the police are the only ones helping people. So, what defunding the police means would be giving organizations like the ones on our site more funding so they can help more people in these specific ways and then narrowing the police’s scope away from these areas where they’re not specifically trained to be,” Sepler-King says.