DAYTON, Ohio — If a Dayton resident calls 911, it might not be an armed police officer who shows up. The city is trying out a new program where unarmed mediators respond to non-emergency calls.

What You Need To Know

  • The city plans to hire and train at least five new mediators to respond to non-emergency calls

  • The mediators will be unarmed and respond to help settle minor disputes like noise or property complaints 

  • Advocates said this program will help cut back on officer-involved incidents

"I would like to report a noise disturbance,” said a 911 caller. “It’s the neighbor next to me, working on a car and I certainly can’t sleep."

It's 911 calls like this that make Michelle Zaremba start taking notes because under a new pilot program, it won’t be a police officer who shows up to a call like this, but someone from her team at the Mediation Center in Dayton.

“It may be like a low-level type crime, or not even a crime. It’s more like a low-level conflict and mediators will be dispatched and they can see if they can help address the issue and also provide ongoing support,” said Zaremba. 

It’s the reason she said they’re adding in space at the center. They’re planning to hire and train more mediators to be the responders to 911 calls that are not an emergency. 

“They will not be armed. A lot of what we’re gonna do is pro-active safety training so if a situation, if a mediator comes upon a situation and it doesn’t look like this is the best place for mediators to be, then they can call the police,” said Zaremba. 

She said there's another reason they’re sending unarmed mediators to some calls.

“There’s less police interaction, negative police interaction,” said Zaremba. 

Rev. Dr. David Fox is a former Dayton police officer. 

He said he noticed something while patroling area neighborhoods.

“Black communities suffer disproportionately from the number of police coming into their community and the opportunity for these interactions to turn a bad way,” said Fox. 

He’s now an activist and was a part of one of the city’s five police reform committees. The 911 changes were a recommendation that came out of those groups. 

“Now if you have people come into the community who have been trained and have knowledge to handle these type of situations as a result from that, it’s gonna be great for our community,” said Fox. 

The new mediators are expected to be responding to non-emergency 911 calls starting in January.