Eugene social workers work with law enforcement using police budget

EUGENE, Ore. — “There’s a niche service that they provide for us. They’re not a replacement for police services,” said Lt. Ron Tinseth, Eugene Police Department.

A Eugene-based organization is gaining national recognition for its model of working with law enforcement for nearly thirty years.

‘Cahoots,’ which stands for ‘Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets,’ is a mobile crisis intervention program.

Lt. Tinseth says the team runs off money from their annual police budget taking on many social service calls including drug and alcohol abuse to crisis counseling.

“They’re not the right tool for all the right situations. You know, they’re certainly not the right tool for a child victim of sexual assault. They’re certainly not the right tool for an armed barricaded subject shooting at people,” he said.

Eugene Police Department data shows Cahoots calls for service have increased dramatically over the last six years.

In 2014, Cahoots handled over 9,600 calls.

In 2019, that number more than doubled to over 18,500 calls.

“We’ve grown the budget from $400,000 many years ago to we’re tipping a million dollars all in costs… again expanded hours, expanded service, we provide Cahoots with publicly-owned vehicles and support them through our 911 center,” said Lt. Tinseth.

But Lt. Tinseth says some calls require a joint response, where they can then determine what services are a better match to resolve the situation.

“Someone calls and says they’re suicidal. They’re armed with a knife and intend to cut themselves. We can’t necessarily have an unarmed Cahoots response,” he said. “The line between I want to kill myself or take somebody with me is not clear for everybody.”

Lt. Tinseth attributes the success of Cahoots in his community to the partnership the two organizations share.

He thinks that relationship is essential to stress as protesters across the country call for limiting law enforcement when he says this is rather, an addition to it.

“They would prefer either an abolishment of law enforcement, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, or to take most of what we do and give it to a social service group and I think that having a good partnership and augmentation of what we do is a better service to our community then laying off 50 of our cops and adding 150 social workers,” he said.

Click here for more information about Cahoots.

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