The Portland City Council took what might look like a baby step last week toward more efficient handling of non-emergency 911 calls.
In a break from current practice, in which uniformed, armed police officers in squad cars or a truckload of firefighters respond, commissioners approved a pilot project in which a new "third branch" of the first-responder system, staffed by a specially trained firefighter and a contracted crisis worker, would respond to some non-emergency situations.
The program starts with just one two-person team.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, architect of the two-responder pilot project, called Portland Street Response, framed it as a much bigger deal.
"This is revolutionary," Hardesty said. "We have not changed our first-response system since the late 1800s."