What To Know Today

NYC program that sends mental health specialists to some 911 calls shows early success. Last month, the city launched B-HEARD, a pilot program in upper Manhattan that dispatches clinicians and paramedics instead of police to certain nonviolent emergency calls. Early data shows that 911 operators routed about one in four mental health emergency calls to the team between June 6 and July 7. In 95 percent of cases, people accepted B-HEARD’s help, compared with 82 percent of cases that were serviced by police in the same area during that period. And because more people are being treated on-site by mental health professionals, only half of the people seen by B-HEARD were transported to the hospital for further care, compared to 82 percent when police were deployed. Context: New York City is part of a growing movement to send mental health professionals to certain 911 calls in lieu of police officers, who are trained to respond with force.

Criminal justice reform advocates are frustrated by Biden’s priorities. Last month, President Joe Biden urged state and local governments to use pandemic relief funds to staff up police departments in an effort to fight rising crime rates. Criminal justice experts tell Law360 that more officers doesn’t always equal less crime, and they’re waiting for the president to be as committed to reducing mass incarceration as he is to reducing gun violence. “President Biden has invested so much political capital in laying out his crime prevention plan, and we have not seen the same sort of commitment laid out for criminal justice reform and for police accountability,” Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s justice division, told the outlet. Last week, the Justice Department unveiled a plan to tackle gun trafficking and straw purchasing in five cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

ShotSpotter alerts are being altered at the behest of police, court documents suggest. A new report by Vice’s Motherboard identified several cases in which ShotSpotter changed key details about alleged gunshots picked up by the company’s sensors — sometimes months after the fact. In one case in Chicago, a ShotSpotter analyst recategorized a sound first identified as a firework to a gunshot. Several months later, another analyst moved the sound’s coordinates to the scene of a fatal shooting a mile away. The ShotSpotter record was the key piece of evidence in a murder trial — until it was withdrawn by prosecutors after coming under scrutiny by the defendant’s lawyer. “Rather than defend the evidence, [prosecutors] just ran away from it,” Jonathan Manes, an attorney at the MacArthur Justice Center, told Motherboard. “Right now, nobody outside of ShotSpotter has ever been able to look under the hood and audit this technology.” As Motherboard reported last week, ShotSpotter is frequently deployed in Black and brown neighborhoods and often generates false shooting alerts. Related: Newark, New Jersey, is putting ShotSpotter sensors in 34 school buildings — almost all in majority-Black ZIP codes, Chalkbeat reports.

Flint, Michigan, declares state of emergency over gun violence. The declaration allows Mayor Sheldon Neeley to establish an emergency response team of 20 staffers — including police personnel, social workers, clergy, and community liaisons — and to tap into American Rescue Plan funds to address the issue. The White House has directed states and localities to use ARP funds for community-led violence prevention programs. So far several cities have done so. Related: Flint’s emergency gun violence declaration comes after Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney refused to issue a similar declaration, despite the urging of the City Council and violence prevention advocates. 

Chicago mayor’s anti-violence plan is foundering: report. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “Our City, Our Safety” plan last summer called for an influx of resources to the 15 neighborhoods with the most shootings. A year later, gun violence is up in at least nine of those areas, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis. Some of the neighborhoods have yet to receive extra funding promised under the plan; the West Pullman area, where fatal shootings are up 566 percent over 2019, is still waiting on $36 million promised by City Hall for violence prevention, housing aid, healthcare, and job training. “The problem is that there are no resources attached to the plan to make it actionable,” Northeastern Illinois University professor Lance Williams, who is part of the funding discussions, told the paper. “The city’s approach is just to PR their way through the shootings.” More from The Trace: After Lakeidra Chavis reported that the Violence Prevention Planning Committee, a key facet of Lightfoot’s plan, had convened only once in six months in a private meeting, the mayor’s office nearly doubled the committee’s membership, and said it will no longer operate behind closed doors.

Data Point

There was a shooting every 12 minutes, on average, between Saturday, July 17, and Friday, July 23, according to Gun Violence Archive, which provided the data for an ABC News special, “One Nation Under Fire: One week of gun violence in America.” More than 430 people were killed and at least 1,007 were wounded in more than 915 incidents during that period. [ABC News]