A Cost Benefit Analysis of Unarmed Responders to 911

When and Where

Thursday, April 04, 2024 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
Canadiana Gallery Room CG 265
Canadiana Gallery
14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9


Ayobami Laniyonu


Since the 2020 police murder of George Floyd, research and community-based pilots increasingly explore the feasibility of unarmed civilian responders to 911. Research in this domain now suggests that somewhere between 15% and 50% of calls for service may be "re-tasked" to non-police emergency responders; that the deployment of non-police responders to some 911 calls for service can reduce crime; that public satisfaction with non-police responders in pilot programs are high; and that non-police responders may reduce instances of police use of force and citizen injury.

Building off this research, the present paper addresses whether and to what extent the implementation of unarmed civilian responders to 911 might induce cost savings for local governments and taxpayers. We consider both tangible costs (e.g., personnel costs, settlements from police misconduct cases, medical costs associated with police violence, etc.) and some intangible costs (e.g., dignitarian costs, quality of life costs, etc.).

Using Monte Carlo simulation, which allow us to account for the considerable variability and uncertainty in the current research literature surrounding how unarmed responders might operate, we estimate the costs/savings that the implementation of unarmed responders might have in over 50 large US cities. Our findings suggest that in almost all cities, a transition to unarmed responders is more likely than not to save local government and taxpayer costs, and that cost savings increase with the annual number of 911 calls received by the city, wage disparities between police and EMTs/paramedics, and the average number of police misconduct/use of force cases per year. Implications, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.



14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9