May 18, 2021
Assembly Appropriations Committee
State Capitol, Room 2114
Sacramento, California 95814
Sent via email: email@example.com
Re: AB 118 (Kamlager) Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (C.R.I.S.E.S.) Act – SUPPORT
Dear Assembly Member Gonzalez:
Human Rights Watch is pleased to support Assembly Bill 118 (AB118 Kamlager), which will establish the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (C.R.I.S.E.S.) Act grant program, to fundamentally improve community-based alternatives to law enforcement for vulnerable populations in California, by strengthening, expanding, and promoting community-based crisis response.
Human Rights Watch is an independent, non-governmental organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, working in more than 90 countries. We conduct human rights research around the world, including the United States. We support initiatives that have the potential to improve human rights protection, including freedom from abuses linked to policing, and the development of rights-respecting community-based services. This includes protection of the human rights of people with disabilities.
According to a 2017 study, approximately one-third to half of all people involved in use-of-force incidents by police in the United States have a disability, including mental health conditions. Black people generally are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.
In many counties across California, community organizations respond to emergency situations, such as those involving people who are unhoused and people experiencing a mental health crisis. Despite the positive impact that community-oriented responses to crises situations can present, California has not scaled these efforts. Instead, law enforcement officers continue to respond emergencies that would be better addressed by community organizations with trained peer support experts, mental health service providers, crisis counselors, or a combination of these.
The presence of armed officers can quickly escalate a situation involving a person experiencing a mental health crisis. In the worst cases, officers use force in response to a person in crisis, resulting in deaths and serious bodily injury to those who simply need the support of trained professionals or peers with lived experience. Human Rights Watch has consistently recommended investing in community services, especially mental health and voluntary drug treatment, as one of the pathways to fundamentally rethink public security, redirecting resources from policing to services that effectively address underlying societal problems.
The proposed program seeks to fill the void currently existing in emergency response services for vulnerable populations so that people with disabilities, young people of color, people who are gender nonconforming, people who are likely to face disproportionate police contact, people who are formerly incarcerated, people with irregular immigration status, and people who are unhoused or homeless can safely access quality emergency services that are culturally appropriate and from trained professionals with relationships and a track record of service in their communities.
For these reasons, Human Rights Watch supports Assembly Bill 118 and respectfully urges you to vote in favor of the bill.
Human Rights Watch
Senior Researcher and Advocate
Disability Rights Division
Human Rights Watch
CC: Members of the Committee on Appropriations, California State Assembly
Frank Bigelow (vice-chair)
Akilah Weber, M.D.
Howard Quan, Legislative Director, California Assembly District 54
DeAngelo Mack, Director of State Policy, Public Health Advocates