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Activists want Manatee County to fund medical 911 program

Written by on Thursday, April 25, 2024

Mother of Palmetto man who died in police custody says it’s overdue — and a good investment.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: Apr. 24, 2024

Host: It’ll soon be half a year since Breonte Johnson-Davis died while in custody of Palmetto police officers, after suffering a mental health episode. Other than a state investigation that found no wrongdoing by the officers who tased, wrestled and beat the 36-year old, there have been no consequences. Tracey Washington, Breonte’s mom, wants to change that. For one, she is asking Palmetto Mayor Shirley Bryant to resign. But she is also taking her fight to improve policing to the Manatee County Commission. Our news team was in downtown Bradenton yesterday morning, for a press conference organized by the Party of Socialism and Liberation and the Suncoast Answer Coalition ahead of the Manatee County Commission meeting.

Johannes Werner: The City of St. Petersburg Police has instituted the CALL program. CALL stands for Community Assistance and Life Liaison, and since it got started in 2021, it has been sending out medical personnel in response to some emergency calls, rather than – or in addition to – cops. City of Tampa police last week followed up with a similar program. And that’s what Breonte’s mom would like to see happen in Manatee County.

Tracey Washington

Tracey Washington: Nothing has happened. They cleared the officers about two months ago, and I’m asking for the CALL program to come into our community so that we can save some lives. I don’t want any other mother or anybody else to have to endure what I’m enduring because this pain is unbearable.

JW: What do you think the difference between the CALL program and no CALL program would be?

TW: Somebody else will die. We need trained personnel to go out into these situations, to be there in order to intervene, not a police showing up with your tasers.

JW: You’re going beyond Palmetto, you’re going to the Manatee County Commission now. Why?

TW: We’re hoping that we can get some funding to bring the program to Manatee County, to introduce it here. So today I’m here to introduce the CALL program to Manatee County, and also asking for the resignation of Mayor Shirley Bryant.

JW: At the press conference, Sarah Parker with the Suncoast Answer Coalition, made the case why Manatee County should institute something like the CALL program.

Sarah Parker: This is not political. This is fiscally responsible. If you look at people, every one of the commissioners that sit on this board — someone they love has either had a mental health crisis, someone they love has a drug addiction problem. Drug addiction and mental health crises have no political affiliation. They impact everyone, they impact the entire community. Furthermore, the county commissioners, if they can spend money on palm trees, and they can spend money on parking, and they can spend on renovating their offices, they can spend money to do this. This would also lower the amount of inmates, like groups that are in jails, which would then also save the county money.

JW: Referring to the Palmetto police chief’s argument that he could not afford to put his officers on leave while being investigated, Parker said this:

SP: I would like to point out something that Chief Tyler pointed out. He said that he did not send his officers on administrative paid leave because he could not afford it. There were not enough officers. If that is the case, then we need mental health people to go and respond to these calls.

JW: At the Manatee County Commission meeting, commissioners did not respond to the requests made by Washington and Parker, among others, during public comment.

Before the meeting, Tracey Washington expressed this:

JW: Do you think they will listen?

TW: I hope they will.

JW: Reporting from Bradenton for WSLR News, this has been Johannes Werner.


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