David Byrne on Cops and Hippies

David Byrne in Reasons to be Cheerful:

It sounds like the plot of some cop-buddy movie: an anarchic hippie social worker (Snoop Dogg or Owen Wilson) is forced to team up with a straight-laced conservative cop (Clint Eastwood, the Rock). Chaos and hilarity ensue. Life lessons are learned. In this case, it actually happened.

It started decades ago in Eugene, Oregon, where police responses to drug- and mental health-related calls were ending badly. So Eugene tried something different: When one of these emergency calls came in, the city dispatched social workers instead of cops. Thirty years later, the strategy has reduced conflicts between police and the public, and made Eugene a national model for harm reduction-oriented policing.

I have fond memories of Eugene. Talking Heads once rehearsed for a tour at the Hult Center there, and on our day off we went to visit the novelist Ken Kesey, who lived nearby. He served us pasta and we helped do the dishes. The city has always had a countercultural streak, and 50 years ago, this mindset inspired some hippies there to create a free clinic and a response team of medics and social workers. They called it the White Bird Clinic.

More here.