Rev. Sharpton and NYCLU to New York City Council: End Cops as First Responders to Mental Health Crises

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
March 16, 2021 11:15 am

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NEW YORK – The New York City Council recently introduced a slate of police reform bills that fail to alter the status quo of policing. One of these bills, Intro 2210, will further ensconce the NYPD in mental health incidents, matters that the department has proven to be ill-equipped to handle.

When NYPD officers act as mental health first-responders, the results can be deadly. Kawaski Trawick was experiencing exactly this type of crisis when NYPD officers forced their way into his apartment in 2019. Officers shot and killed Trawick two minutes after they arrived. The officers who responded to the call had been given crisis intervention training designed to help them better handle these types of situations. In the end, that didn’t matter.

By moving Intro 2210 forward, the City Council is turning its back on New Yorkers who took to the streets and to the polls, demanding an end to police abuse. They are also turning their backs on the father of Saheed Vassell and the mother of Mohamed Bah, who both testified in opposition to this bill. Mr. Vassell and Madame Bah know that Intro 2210 would not remove police from crisis encounters, and will not prevent more deaths like the tragedies their families experienced.

New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman and National Action Network founder and president Rev. Al Sharpton issued the following joint statement:

“Right now, legislation is moving through the City Council that would further embed the NYPD in mental health emergencies. The NYPD should not, under any circumstances, be further emboldened with new resources, partnerships, or mandates to be first responders to people in need of clinical expertise. Mental health crises should be addressed with a trauma-informed response, not an approach that inflicts further trauma and endangers the lives of the very people the NYPD is supposed to serve.

“We need policies that shift our vision of how our city responds to people in crisis. With the support of Daniel Prude’s family, there is a proposed bill in Albany known as ‘Daniel’s Law,’ which holds the promise of a different way. ‘Daniel’s Law’ will help New York state treat mental health crises as they are: public health crises, not public safety threats. It will ensure mental health experts are the first responders to mental health crises, not police. And finally, ‘Daniel’s Law’ will take the power away from police and put local mental health experts in charge of how these crises are addressed. This is how we build systems that treat New Yorkers in crisis with dignity, not Intro 2210. NYC lawmakers must adopt policies like those found in ‘Daniel’s Law.’

“Speaker Johnson and members of the City Council: New Yorkers will not be fooled by regressive reforms. The City Council must withdraw Intro 2210 and transparently communicate this action to the public.”

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