March 08, 2022

Cori Bush Highlights People’s Response Act, Urgent Need for Health Based-Approaches to Public Safety in House Judiciary Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Reimagining Public Safety in the COVID-19 Era, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, remarked on the importance of prioritizing evidence-based, non-carceral responses to public safety. She also highlighted the urgent need to pass her legislation, the People’s Response Act, a bill that will fund local, state and community organizations in implementing, launching and scaling alternative approaches.

The hearing’s purpose was to examine the root causes of crime and violence during the COVID-19 era and the role of the Federal government in enhancing and developing strategies to ensure everyone in this country can live a life without fear of violence. 

To watch the Congresswoman’s full exchange, click here.

A full transcript of her questioning and exchange with the witness is available below.

Congresswoman Cori Bush: St. Louis and I thank Chairwoman Jackson Lee, for convening this important hearing. 

What too many of my colleagues do not want us to talk about, what they don’t want us talking about is that as they trip over each other rushing to spew lies and right-wing talking points about police funding, they are saying nothing about the rise of violence by the police, even after millions of people marched in our streets demanding an end to police brutality. 

There were only 15 - one five - days in 2021 in which police officers didn’t kill someone.

Last year broke the record for police killings in this country – 1,055 deaths by law enforcement – and that is likely an undercount. In Missouri, Black people are almost five times more likely to be killed by police compared to white people and year after year – despite increases in police budgets – St. Louis has led the country in police killings per capita. 

Police violence is so pervasive, many Black and marginalized people avoid calling the police when they are undergoing some of the most difficult emergencies. 

I came to Congress to save lives. I will not back down from that no matter what some of my colleagues on this committee say. So, let’s get to the truth of what health-informed and evidence-based public safety needs to look like. 

In St. Louis, our community has taken meaningful steps to transform public safety as a                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        public health issue:

Last year, we started a 911 diversion program that has diverted mental health, domestic violence, drug overdose and trespassing calls to licensed and trained practitioners. 

Before it started, there were few options for people in crisis: a trip to the emergency room, spending a night in jail, or receiving no help at all.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

In the almost one year since implementation, our 911 diversion program answered nearly 700 calls, with 75% not resulting in a response by law enforcement.

The program saved 2,000 hours of police and EMS time, at the same time, despite no increases in the local police budget, homicides and gun assaults also fell by more than 25 percent. 

These are the kinds of programs that have saved lives in St. Louis, in Denver, in Eugene, Oregon, and in communities across our country. 

So when some of my colleagues try to tell you that transforming public safety will mean that:

When you call 911, not a single first responder will answer? That is a lie.

When there’s an emergency and you need help, no one will show up? That’s what they tell you, but that is a lie.

When they tell you that police need military grade weapons and equipment like MRAPS to keep us safe? That is a lie.

I want us to build a future where my community does not fear for our lives when we call for help. I want trained professionals to come and help when you are undergoing a mental health crisis without fear of death. And that is what I will continue to champion. It is for this reason that I introduced H.R. 4914, the People’s Response Act to ensure that the federal government is supporting our cities, states and community-based organizations in launching and scaling public health alternatives to policing. Let’s make sure this is the truth that we’re talking about today. 

So Mr. Apt, can you provide examples of non-carceral community based intervention programs that have been successful in curbing community violence?  

Mr. Apt: Absolutely. Cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, can teach high risk individuals to manage emotions, address conflicts, and think ahead in order to avoid criminal or violent behavior. In Chicago, one CBT program reduced arrests for violent crimes among youth by half, while another reduced shooting and homicide arrests among high risk individuals by eighty percent. 

We’ve talked a lot about the community violence strategies known as cure violence or street outreach. By my count, there’s been approximately four or five evaluations that are positive, in showing positive effects of that intervention, and there’s one or two that are showing negative effects. And so the balance of the evidence, I think, is in favor of those programs. 

We also talked about placement-based crime prevention. We haven’t talked about hospital-based violence prevention, which is another promising strategy. Again, I think we have to stop having this either-or conversation. The police need to be at the table, the community needs to be at the table, service providers need to be at the table, and we all need to work together. 

Congresswoman Cori Bush: Thank you, Mr. Apt. I agree that in order to achieve community safety, we need to prioritize fully funding programs and services that are proven to work. I implore my colleagues on this Committee to support the People’s Response Act which would do just that.

Thank you and I yield back. 


Congresswoman Cori Bush sits on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, serves as the Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip, and proudly represents St. Louis as a politivist in the halls of the United States Congress.