In Bensalem, social workers to respond to certain 911 calls alongside or instead of police

By KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new program in Bensalem will have social workers responding to certain 911 calls alongside, or instead of, police.

Fred Harran, Bensalem’s director of public safety, said when there are high-profile cases of police use of force, the question often is why did police do what they did, when he said the question we should be asking is why they were called.

“Why weren’t these people being helped, because we hear over and over again all the mental health issues these people have had,” he said.

Bensalem has hired two social workers, Walter Bynum and Rachel Agosto, calling them co-responders. Bynum said they’ll respond to calls, but more importantly, they’ll work to build relationships.

“If they do call 911, now when we respond we can say, ‘OK, Ms. Mary, let’s work it out and the cops can leave.’ I think the best things we can do is build relationships so these incidents can decrease,” Bynum explained.

Harran said the safety of the co-responders is top priority. It will be a learning process and they’ll start by erring on the side of cautions.

He said the co-responders are instructed to listen to officers if, for example, officers say they don’t think it’s safe for them to be on their own.