KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville City Council postponed the vote on a resolution that would form an alternative response task force on Tuesday night.
The task force would aim to develop and propose a plan to implement an alternative response program in the city or a non-police first responder for people in crisis.
Councilwoman Amelia Parker proposed the motion to postpone after hours of discussion between council members.
The organization known as Knoxville HEART packed the meeting to show support for the resolution. Amelia James is a co-founding member of HEART and said an alternative response is necessary for Knoxville.
“If we have a mental health crisis, having police respond to these calls is worsening that mental health crisis. So, we need to reduce that harm that’s happening to vulnerable people in our community, and alternative response, sending out a medic, sending out a behavioral health professional is the best way to achieve that, based on data from across the country,” James said.
Councilmembers voted to postpone the vote to give themselves more time to meet with community members and better understand the proposal. James said they are not discouraged by the postponement.
“I think the concern was if there was a vote people wouldn’t support it as is, and we want people’s support, so if that can happen in four weeks we’re willing to wait four weeks, we’ve waited three years so four weeks is nothing compared to what we’ve already done,” she said.
Councilwoman Amelia Parker proposed the resolution and also made the motion to postpone the vote. Councilman Tommy Smith expressed concerns about the city council’s role in creating the program.
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“In my opinion, you can amend this resolution, withdraw it, replace it, whatever it takes, I don’t think I’m going to bring anything, not that I don’t want to serve on this, and not that I don’t spend a lot of energy with folks that are unhoused and need help, I just don’t think city council has the answer,” Smith said.
The resolution will be read again and voted on at the city council’s meeting on June 27.