9-1-1 MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCY

Amid a citywide surge of emotional distress calls, the recently launched news outlet, “The City,” exposes a shocking fact. Although 14 mentally ill New Yorkers died at the hands of the police in the last three years, less than one-third of the force has undergone training on how to better deal with this vulnerable population.

Aired on April 5, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THERE'S A NEW NAME IN LOCAL JOURNALISM HERE IN NEW YORK AND THE CITY IS ALREADY BREAKING NEWS ON BEHALF OF NEW YORKERS.

THE INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS OUTLET IS BEHIND THIS WEEK'S STORY ON THE HIGH END TASTE OF MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CY VANCE INCLUDING USE OF CORPORATE FUNDS TO PAY FOR NEARLY $250,000 IN WORK TRIPS.

THE CITY HAS PUT OUT A SPECIAL REPORT TITLED THE NYPD MENTAL ILLNESS RESPONSE BREAK DOWN WHICH EXAMINES HOW THE POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THE de BLASIO ADMINISTRATION ARE DOING WHEN IT COMES TO THE MENTALLY ILL.

IN THE PAST THREE YEARS, 14 MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE HAVE REPORTEDLY DIET DIED AT THE HANDS OF THE POLICE.

THIS AS NEW YORK HAS ALSO SEEN THE NUMBER OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS CALLS SKYROCKET AND NEARLY DOUBLE OVER THE PAST DECADE.

FOR A DEEPER DIVE INTO THE ISSUE, JENNA FLANNIGAN SPOKE WITH THE PERSON WHO BROUGHT IT TO THE CITY.

THE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER GREG B. SMITH.

SHE BEGAN THE CONVERSATION BY ASKING ABOUT THE CRUX OF HIS REPORT.

I MEAN, THE NUMBERS ARE DISTURBING.

SO WHEN YOU'RE LOOKING AT THE 911 CALLS THAT COME IN TO REQUEST POLICE ASSISTANCE TO DEAL WITH WHAT THEY CALL AN EDP, AN EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED PERSON, THE CALLS HAVE RISEN FROM 97,000 IN 2009 TO MORE THAN ALMOST 180,000. LAST YEAR.

THOSE NUMBERS WENT UP EVERYWHERE.

NOT JUST THE PORT AUTHORITY.

EAST NEW YORK.

IT WAS, PARTICULARLY IN THE SOUTH BRONX.

YOU SEE, WHAT YOU SEE IS YOU SEE A PATTERN WHERE THE NUMBER OF THESE CALLS HAS GONE UP DRAMATICALLY.

AND SO WE WANTED TO TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT HAS THE CITY DEALT WITH.

THIS IS NOT NEWS TO THEM.

THE NYPD AND LET ME MAKE THIS VERY CHEER.

THIS IS NOT ON NYPD.

THE NYPD, THAT'S NOT THEIR JOB, TO DEAL WITH THE MENTALLY ILL.

THEIR JOB IS TO TRY TO DEAL WITH SITUATIONS AS THEY COME UP.

AND IT IS PART OF de BLASIO ADMINISTRATION'S APPROACH IS TO TRY TO PAIR THE NYPD WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS.

WHEN YOU'RE DEALING WITH SOMEONE IN A VERY VOLATILE SITUATION, AN UP PREDICTABLE SITUATION, YOU WANT AS MUCH KNOWLEDGE ON THE STREET WHEN YOU'RE DEALING WITH IT.

THEIR PROMISE WAS TO TRY TO DO THIS.

TO HAVE A BETTER EDUCATED COP TO DEAL WITH IT.

THAT HAS BEEN A BIG CHALLENGE.

THEY'VE HAD A TOUGH TIME DEALING WITH IT.

AND IT IS NOT THE JOB OF THE COPS.

PEOPLE HAVE ACTUALLY DIED AT THE HANDS OF THE POLICE OFFICERS.

SO WHAT WAS IT THAT YOU WERE FINDING IN TERMS OF HOW THIS WAS PLAYING OUT IN REAL-TIME?

THERE IS TWO PARTS TO THIS.

ONE OF THEM IS TRAINING.

YOU WANT TO TRAIN A POLICE OFFICER TO UNDERSTAND.

THE IDEA IS TO DE-ESCALATE.

WHEN YOU GO INTO A SITUATION LIKE THIS, IN A LOT OF WAYS, IT IS VERY, IT IS UNPREDICTABLE.

YOU DON'T GO IN THE WAY YOU'RE CONDUCTING A DRUG BUY OR SOMETHING.

THE NYPD HAS BEEN TRYING TO TRAIN POLICE OFFICERS, AND THERE ARE 46,000 POLICE OFFICERS.

THEY HAVE SAID, THE CITY HAS SAID THEY'LL TRAIN EVERYBODY.

THEY'RE UP TO ABOUT 10,800.

IT TAKES TIME.

THEY ARE MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIANS WHO WOULD ACCOMPANY COPS TO DEAL WITH THE SITUATION.

THEY CALL IT A REFERRAL.

WE HAVE A PERSON IN OUR PROGRAM WHO IS ACTING OUT.

WE NEED SOME POLICE ASSISTANCE.

THEY WOULD SEND TWO POLICE OFFICERS WITH A MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIAN.

A GOOD IDEA.

THE PROBLEM IS THEY'VE BARELY USED IT.

THEY'VE HAD IN IT EFFECT FOR THREE FULL YEARS.

THEY'VE HAD APPROXIMATELY 1,900 REFERRALS COMPARED TO 109,000911 CALLS.

WHY?

THEY KEPT IT OUT OF 911.

THEY DECIDED TO DO THAT.

THEY ARE NOW LOOKING AT I AGAIN AND SAYING, MAYBE WE NEED TO PUT THIS INTO 911 AND EXPAND IT SO YOU WOULD THEN HAVE SOMEBODY WHO KNOWS HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS SITUATION.

ACCOMPANYING THE COP WHEN'S THEY'RE DEALING WITH THIS.

BUT THEY'RE ONLY NOW TRYING TO DO IT.

SPEAKING OF 911, THERE WAS A RECENT INCIDENT, I BELIEVE YOU WERE TWEETING ABOUT IT.

IN REGARD TO A CASE OF ONE GENTLEMAN WHO, PEOPLE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD SAW HIM ACTING ERRAT ERRATICALLY.

THEY CALLED 911.

COPS SHOWED UP THINKING HE HAD A GUN AND UNFORTUNATELY HE WAS SHOT AND KILLED.

I BELIEVE OUR NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL RECENTLY RELEASED A REPORT INDICATING WHERE THE BREAKDOWNS WERE.

YES, I'M HAPPY TO TALK ABOUT THAT.

WHAT HAPPENED WAS ON APRIL 4, 2018, A MAN, 34 YEARS OLD, BIPOLAR, WAS WALKING UP AND DOWN THE STREET.

IN HIS NEIGHBORHOOD AROUND THE CORNER FROM WHERE HE LIVES.

EVERYBODY KNOWS HIM IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

ONE OF THESE GUYS EVERYBODY KNOWS.

AND HE WOULD HANG OUT AT THE BARBER SHOP AND HE WOULD DO LITTLE TOURS FOR PEOPLE.

HE WAS NOT TAKING HIS MEDS.

AND HE HAD A PIECE OF METAL PIPE IN HIS HAND.

AND IT SORT OF LOOKED LIKE A GUN IF YOU LOOK AT IT.

WHEN YOU SEE THE VIDEO OF IT.

HE WAS WALKING OUT TO PEOPLE AND POINTING IT AT THEM.

AND SOME OF THE PEOPLE WERE LIKE, THEY'RE NEW YORKERS.

THEY'RE LIKE, OH, THAT'S NICE AND KEPT WALKING.

SOME OF THEM WERE PRETTY FREAKED OUT.

IT IS A PRETTY FREAKY THING TO SEE THIS.

THE VIDEO OF IT.

SO THE CALLS START COMING INTO NEW YORK CITY.

THIS IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW THE SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE FIXED.

YOU HAVE THREE DIFFERENT PEOPLE MAKE 911 CALLS ABOUT THIS PERSON.

AND ALL THREE OF THEM ARE SAYING, THERE IS A GUY WALKING UP AND DOWN THE STREET AND HE'S POINTING WHAT LOOKS LIKE A GUN AT THESE PEOPLE.

AND THE 911 DISPATCHER.

IS IT A GUN?

I DON'T KNOW.

IT MIGHT BE A GUN.

IT LOOKS LIKE GUN.

IT COULD BE A GUN.

SO NOW THE 911 DISPATCHER TAKES HAD INFORMATION AND RELAYS IT TO THE POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.

THIS IS WHERE WE GET INTO COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN.

SO THERE ARE TWO PARTS TO THIS.

WHAT HAPPENS BEFORE AN INCIDENT AND WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN INCIDENT.

SO BEFORE THE INCIDENT, THEY WERE RELATING SPECIFIC INFORMATION ABOUT HOW IT MIGHT BE A GUN.

BUT THAT'S NOT HOW IT WAS CONVEYED.

IT WAS CONVEYED TO THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT AS, MAN WITH GUN.

SO THIS IS WHAT, THIS IS THE INFORMATION THE COPS GET WHEN THEY'RE SEND OVER TO THE SCENE.

THERE IS A MAN WITH A GUN.

THAT'S THE FIRST PART.

THE SECOND PART IS ONE OF THE 911 CALLERS SAID, HE LOOKS CRAZY.

SO THAT TRIGGERED AN EDP CALL.

HOWEVER, AND I STILL DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS.

I'M TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED HERE.

IT WAS NOT ROUTED TO THE POLICE DEPARTMENT.

IT WENT TO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.

SO NONE OF THE COPS HAD ANY CLUE THIS WAS AN EDP CALL.

WHEN THEY PULLED UP INTO THE INTERSECTION AND SAW THIS GUY WALKING BACK AND FORTH, HE TURNED AROUND AND POINTED LIKE THIS.

HIS PIPE AT THE COPS.

THAT WAS IT.

IT'S OVER.

AND FOUR OF THEM SHOT HIM.

AND IT WAS A SITUATION THAT PERHAPS IT COULD HAVE GONE IN A DIFFERENT WAY.

THE COPS HAD LIMITED INFORMATION.

APPARENTLY NOT CORRECT INFORMATION.

THEY'RE GIVEN A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF INFORMATION THAT THEY HAD TO DEAL WITH.

SO OUR NEW STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL CONCLUDED HER INVESTIGATION AND SAID THAT THE COPS WERE JUSTIFIED.

BASED ON THE INFORMATION THEY WERE GIVEN AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT UNFOLDED.

SO AGAIN, THIS SYSTEM, THERE'S SOMETHING BROKEN ABOUT IT.

WHEN SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS AND AGAIN, THIS IS SOMEONE'S SON.

AND YOU KNOW, AGAIN, I TALKED TO HIS FATHER.

AND HIS FATHER IS OBVIOUSLY HEART BROKEN.

I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU GET OVER SOMETHING LIKE THIS.

THEY ALL KNOW ABOUT HIM.

THE COPS KNOW ABOUT HIM.

ALL WE'RE TRYING TO DO AT THE CITY IS TO TRY ON GET PEOPLE TO FOCUS ON THINGS.

THE de BLASIO ADMINISTRATION IS FOCUSING ON THIS ISSUE BUT IT IS NOT REALLY FUNCTIONING CORRECTLY.

AND I CERTAINLY THINK THAT THE CO-RESPONDER IDEA, THE IDEA OF HAVING SOMEONE WITH SOME SORT OF MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND INVOLVED IN THESE THINGS, SEEMS TO BE A GOOD IDEA BUT IT IS EXTREMELY LIMITED.

I KNOW JUST NOW, THEY'RE LOOKING AT EXPANDING IT.

I THINK THAT'S A GOOD APPROACH.

OF COURSE WE'LL LOOK FORWARD TO MORE OF YOUR REPORTING.

WE WANT TO SEE LESS SHOOTING DEATHS FROM THE COPS IN THE CITY.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORK.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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