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Buoy as an alternative to police and EMS

Meitar Moscovitz edited this page May 7, 2016 · 4 revisions

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We're calling Buoy a “community-based crisis response system” because our goal, ultimately, is to abolish the police entirely. I don’t think I need to convince you that, today, there are many people for whom "calling the cops” for help is simply not a safe option. Buoy is designed for these people, too.

The basic difference between tools like the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app, their predecessor’s “I’m Getting Arrested” apps, the many other personal crisis response tools out there today (SafeTrek, CompanionApp, etc.), and Buoy is profound. The former set are all designed either to respond to an encounter with police that has presumably gone “wrong,” or to respond to a bad situation with the presence of police officers. In contrast, Buoy is designed to support communities working to replace the need for police to exist in the first place—or at least to offer people a way to augment a 9-1-1 call with a call to one’s actual friends, rather than (just) the cops.

This idea of “call a friend, not the cops,” is, as far as I know, consistently the single most often advocated position of police and prison abolitionists. Unfortunately, there are no good tools with which communities, groups of friends, or other neighborhood centers can use to make it easy and reliable to in fact call one’s friends in an emergency, rather than the cops. That is the main problem Buoy aims to solve.

maymay, Better Angels's principal software architect and lead web services developer

Alternative to police

As we work to eliminate or radically change police institutions we must also work to support and build liberatory alternatives to the police.

—Rose City Cop Watch, "Alternatives to Police"

In 2008, Rose City Cop Watch, a group of citizen journalists focused on police accountability and community safety in Portland, OR, published suggestions for alternatives to policing. The very first suggestion is headlined, "Call a Friend, Not the Cops!" It reads:

There are a lot of situations that we are not equipped to face alone. We need someone's help, but that someone does not have to be the police! So call a friend instead of the cops!

We should choose someone who can arrive quickly, help de-escalate the situation, and figure out "a comfortable ending." This will work best if we set up support networks in advance. Designing our support network can be as simple as checking in with people we know to see who we can call when we need help or support, and letting folks know that they can call us.

The real beauty of this idea that it encourages people to do something free and easy: build better communities by having an advance networking plan for who/when to call instead of the cops when stuff goes down.

Buoy can be seen as an implementation of this idea.

Alternative to EMS

We asked CAHOOTS about conflict with the police. They told us they and the people they serve actually have more problems with fire fighters and EMTs. This story illustrates how the problems are larger than the police. David explains that in Eugene a 911 call often brings fire fighters who are also paramedics, and that CAHOOTS often has conflicts with those fire fighters who are often not very compassionate or people-oriented.

—The Rosehip Medic Collective, "Alternatives to Emergency Medical Services"

In 2011, the Rosehip Medic Collective, a group of volunteer medical and healthcare responders, published stories and perspectives on the challenges facing members of their community in receiving reliable and quality medical attention. They also discuss the need for creative improvements to the infrastructure that supports EMS workers themselves, classifying them into two broad categories:

Without fundamental changes to our society, any alternatives to EMS will be incomplete, unable to adequately respond to all the dangers of our world. But as a part of a larger movement, with a functional “vertical infrastructure” of radical alternatives, we can (and do) provide alternatives to certain parts of the tiered system and can increase our ability to provide more urgent forms of care as we gain skill and structure.

Horizontal infrastructure: Working along side other medical providers to widen the range of existing services and create services where they don’t currently exist. Horizontal infrastructure bridges gaps between existing medical services and those that don’t yet exist. Focuses on the ignored spaces instead of contesting ground.

Vertical infrastructure: Working with other groups to connect different services. Links ideas like alternatives to the police, reformative/transformative justice, and environmental activism with healthcare.

Buoy is one example of a new horizontal infrastructure for this exact purpose.

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