The New York City Police Department (NYPD) will no longer send out NYPD officers on mental health crisis calls in parts of Manhattan as part of a pilot program, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on April 26.
Currently, the program is being tested in three Harlem and East Harlem police precincts, with plans on soon extending it citywide. The program relies on social workers and EMS to respond to non-violent mental health crisis calls instead of police.
When police have responded to some mental health crisis calls it has escalated to violence or even death, PIX 11 reported. One in five New Yorkers suffers from mental illness, and 911 dispatchers received 154,000 calls for help with mental illness in 2020.
The new response unit includes 25 teams.
New York City is investing $112 million to the program, The New York Post reported.
The move by the NYPD is a police reform policy many activists have called for across the country.
Up to 50 percent of police killings involve someone with a mental illness, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found. Nearly 1 in 4 people fatally shot by police since 2015 had a mental illness, including a disproportionate number of people of color, according to a Washington Post database of fatal shootings by on-duty officers, USA Today reported.
Between 33 and 68 percent of police calls for service could be handled without sending an armed officer to the scene; between 21 and 38 percent could be serviced by Community Responders, found an analysis of 411 calls by the Center for American Progress and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the American Progress organization reported.
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Almost half of the people who are killed by police have some kind of disability, including mental illness, found one recent report published by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability organization.
“Police have become the default responders to mental health calls,” wrote the authors, historian David Perry and disability expert Lawrence Carter-Long, who looked at incidents from 2013 to 2015. According to the authors, “people with psychiatric disabilities” are presumed to be “dangerous to themselves and others” in police interactions, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
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