If you live in Boston and call 911, you’ll probably be connected to the police department’s Emergency 9-1-1 Center. They’ll ask your name, your location, and why you’re calling, and then assign the response to Boston police, fire, or emergency medical services.

Usually, it’s the police who end up responding: data released a few years ago showed the BPD answering 70 to 80 percent of the two to three thousand 911 calls placed every day.

But now, as an array of police practices receive intense scrutiny, Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu thinks it’s time to for the city to shift away from this approach.

“So much of our 911 calls that get assigned to police end up being calls that are not best suited to someone with a law enforcement background,” Wu said.

“Even our officers have remarked that more and more of their calls, crisis response calls, are for a mental health issue or substance abuse issue, when that’s not in their wheelhouse.”

For example, think of someone overdosing, or having a nervous breakdown. While these situations can be resolved with police providing the required assistance, they can also turn adversarial, or even lethal.

Wu and two other councilors, Lydia Edwards and Julia Mejia, want Boston to create a fourth type of first responder. They envision these individuals handling a large number of the emergency calls currently assigned to the BPD, but with a different range of expertise, and without carrying a gun.

“If you were to call 911 it would go to a dispatcher, just as it does now,” Wu said. “But instead of just being sent to either fire, EMS or police, there would be another category for this nonviolent crisis response, which includes mental health, where there might be a need for a social-work or substance-abuse background."

The new class of first responders could also respond to situations like traffic crashes, Wu added.

While this would represent a big change to the city of Boston’s M.O., it wouldn’t be unprecedented. A handful of other cities have done something similar, including New Orleans and Eugene, Oregon.

Closer to home, another major Massachusetts city — Worcester — experimented with unarmed “police service aides” in the 1970s.

In 1978, an analysis by James M. Tien and Richard C. Larson, published in the Journal of Criminal Justice, said that by freeing up Worcester police officers to respond to more serious situations, the service-aide program had “substantially decreased targeted crime levels.”

“You should really focus on things you do best, or you were trained for," Tien said in a recent interview.

The analysis also found the public was just as satisfied dealing with aides as with officers, and that a majority of both patrol officers (69 percent) and detectives (86 percent) thought the service-aide program was a good idea.

Larson said recently that the tumult of the 1960s helped pave the way for Worcester’s reforms, and that our current moment could do something similar.

“Right now, we’re at point in United States where initiatives like police service aides and related innovations are ripe for looking at and analyzing, seriously and in all dimensions,” he said.

But Larson also cites a potential barrier to change: if aides can do some of the work police officers do, officers might see them as a threat.

Consequently, he suggests making working as a service aide the first step toward becoming a full-fledged officer.

“One pathway would be to have all entrances into police department via the service-aides mechanism,” Larson said. “Then the police union’s not going to view this as taking away [their] jobs."

Tien agrees, and says a framework of this sort would ultimately lead to a more well-rounded police force.

“The training [for police] has to be more general training than shooting guns,” he said.

In Boston, though, that’s not the way Wu and other would-be reformers currently want to proceed.

“Particularly from communities of color, for decades and generations, community leaders have said our current public system is not delivering safety for all,” Wu said. “And so it makes a difference where the reporting chains go up to.

“I think, here there’s a clear desire to see separation from law enforcement.”

In Worcester, the police-service-aide experiment ended by the early 1990s. The exact reasons for its demise are unclear. But in 1978, when the program was still going strong, Tien and Larson noted friction between aides who wanted to do more and officers who wanted them to do less.

There is “a growing feeling in the police union,” they wrote, “that aides may be infringing on police tasks.”