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Prince George's Co. looks to realign $20M from police budget for public safety facility

The funding will help how police and county departments interact and treat mentally ill people and those who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — A public safety building in Prince George's County will be a $20 million investment allocated from the police department's budget, according to County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. 

Alsobrooks hopes the funding will help how police and county departments interact with mentally ill people and those who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

“What we know is that 70% of the people who are arrested in Prince George’s County arrive to our Department of Corrections intoxicated, and a third of the individuals who come through our jail are suffering from a mental health issue,” said Alsobrooks. “It’s wrong to treat mentally ill and addicted people in jail, and we must preserve the dignity of these individuals. For this reason, I am realigning resources to ensure a vulnerable population of our community has access to the help they need from medical professionals and not police officers who are not equipped to deal with that population.”

The legislation will be sent later this week to City Council in hopes that it will be voted on by Prince George's County residents in November, said Alsobrooks's office.

Alsobrooks's office points to the fact that police officers are asked to do a lot. This includes dealing with individuals in crisis.

The goal of this new facility will be to provide treatment for those suffering from mental health issues and addiction by qualified medical staff who can care for them — in hopes that police intervention is not the only attention people are having for serious problems they need help with.

“I believe we have to address injustices in policing in our communities, but I also believe that if we only focus on policing, we will have missed an opportunity for meaningful change,” said Alsobrooks. “I believe this moment in history also requires us to look at the social injustices that have harmed the African American community for centuries, like disparities in health care and education, and work toward reform in those areas as well.”

Alsobrooks's office also announced Tuesday that she is establishing a work group of stakeholders, thought leaders, community advocates and organizers to examine the policies and practices of the county’s police department.

Changing how police departments interact with communities, especially those that are predominantly African-America, has become a highlighted discussion amid the death of George Floyd this May by a police officer in Minneapolis. 

Alsobrooks has been part of peaceful protests in the county over police brutality and social injustice. 

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