MH Advocates Call on NYPD To Dispatch Officers Trained in Crisis Intervention

NYAPRS Note: Here’s more coverage of yesterday’s speak out at NY City Hall that called for Crisis Intervention training to be delivered to many more officers, with a focus on deploying trained officers to respond to people in serious emotional distress. See Carla Rabinowitz’ statement and hear her and Steve Coe’s interviews at

Mental Health Advocates Call on NYPD To Dispatch Officers Trained in Crisis Intervention
Crain's Health Pulse November 15, 2016

When Deborah Danner, 66, was fatally shot in her Bronx home by a police sergeant in October after she threatened police with a pair of scissors and a bat, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the officers at the scene should have waited for the Emergency Service Unit to arrive.

Members of that unit, who employ such tactics as wrapping people in "mesh restraining devices" that look like body bags, are routinely dispatched in response to 911 calls regarding "emotionally disturbed people."

However, in the wake of Danner's death, mental health advocates are asking why the NYPD is continuing to send ESU officers to respond to those calls instead of calling upon one of the more than 4,000 officers who have completed the department's four-day crisis intervention training since the program's launch in June 2015.

At a rally on the steps of City Hall Monday, advocates also called for 10,000 more officers to receive crisis intervention training, or CIT, so that it's more likely that someone trained in appropriate de-escalation tactics will arrive on the scene when a call comes in.

"If they had sent a CIT officer [to Deborah Danner's house] the problem could have been resolved in a much better way," said Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordinator at the supportive-housing provider Community Access, and a leader of the coalition that pushed for crisis intervention training in New York City.

Crisis intervention training, used in cities around the country, is currently given to all new NYPD recruits, according to the police department. For other officers, it's voluntary.

Rabinowitz, who has sat in on several of the crisis intervention training classes, said she has seen police officers work through fictional scenarios in which they must respond to a distressed person who is armed—without using force. They have also had the chance to speak directly with people who have mental health diagnoses, she said.

"These are all people who have had encounters with the police, been handcuffed, Tasered or some other traumatic event, so having them come and talk to officers about what that felt like and the consequences of that is powerful," said Rabinowitz.

About 97% of the officers who have been trained said they would recommend the program to others in the force, according to a city report in June.

The NYPD acknowledged in an email to Crain's that "CIT policing brings together the criminal justice and mental health systems with the joint goal of reducing the risk of injury to police officers and mentally ill persons." But the department contested the advocates' claim that officers who went through the crisis intervention course are the only ones qualified to respond to situations like Danner's.

"All NYPD officers are trained extensively on how to recognize and respond to emotionally disturbed persons, and that training continues throughout their careers and includes workshops taught by experts in the field of psychiatry," said the NYPD in the email. "Moreover, Emergency Service Unit officers and our Hostage

Negotiation Team members receive intensive training from mental health professionals on how to manage the various behavior traits of individuals suffering from any potential mental health issues."

The NYPD acknowledged that the ESU sometimes uses mesh body bags "when an emotionally disturbed person is violent and may cause harm to themselves or others."

On Monday, Dustin Grose, 31, recalled being wrapped up in such a device when police responded to a call his parents made to 911 in 2007 because he was acting erratically. "I was mumbling about not wanting to go to the hospital and then I was sucker-punched, taken down, handcuffed, wrapped in a mat and beaten," said Grose, who sued the city over the incident and settled for $17,500, according to the 2009 settlement agreement.

Grose, a certified peer specialist at Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens who counsels people with serious mental illnesses, said he thinks police officers should be accompanied by mental health professionals when responding to calls like the ones his parents made.

"Up to this day there's still a little fear in me when I'm approached by a police officer," Grose said.

Some advocates at Monday's rally held signs promoting the city's new mental health hotline, 888-NYC-WELL.

But it's unrealistic to expect people to use alternatives to 911 when someone is in crisis, said Rabinowitz.

"As someone who suffers from mental health issues and has been an emotionally distressed person, when a family member sees someone out of control, they're going to call the police," she said.—C.L.

Advocates Want More NYPD Officers Trained In Crisis Intervention
WCBS New York November 14, 2016

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) –There’s a push to train and dispatch specific NYPD officers to 911 calls involving an emotionally disturbed person.

As WCBS880’s Rich Lamb reported, members of Community Access — a mental health advocacy non-profit — stood on City Hall steps and started by praising the NYPD’s Crisis Intervention Training.

“I’ve sat in the CIT training three times. It’s a really good training, and the police have trained over 4,400 officers,” Carla Rabinowitz said.

Crisis Intervention Training or CIT helps police handle an emotionally disturbed person.

Advocates say only about 4,000 NYPD officers have it, and they’re not necessarily the ones that respond to the call, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.

“While we are encouraged by what’s happening so far it’s not working if we’re still shooting people in the middle of an emergency,” Steve Coe said.

Coe is with the group Community Access which is asking for 10,000 officers to be trained especially in the emergency services unit.

His plea was echoed by friends of Deborah Danner who was shot and killed by police in the Bronx.

“Get the proper police department training to go to those calls which happen many, many times,” Danny said.

Statement by Carla Rabinowitz

In a blog a few years ago, the late Deborah Danner said: Any chronic illness is a curse. Schizophrenia is no different- it’s only saving grace if you will is that as far as I know it’s not a fatal disease.

Except her mental health concerns were fatal due to lack of police training.

Deborah wrote: Schizophrenia happened to me when I was almost thirty years old, she said. Late in life, and it has had a major impact on my life, my career, and my relationships.

Deborah continued: Generally speaking, those who don’t suffer believe the worst of those of us who do. We’re treated with suspicion as liars who can’t be trusted to control ourselves. We’re asked to accept less than our natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Deborah profoundly stated: We are all aware of the all too frequent news stories about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement instead of mental health professionals and end up dead.

One of the solutions, she offered is: Teaching law enforcement how to deal with the mentally ill in crisis so as to prevent another “Gompers” incident.

Unfortunately change did not come soon enough to save the life of Deborah Danner.

My name is Carla Rabinowitz, Advocacy Coordinator of Community Access and one of the coordinators of a coalition called the communities for crisis intervention teams in NYC (CCITNYC)

What Community Access and CCIT NYC are calling for is reform in the way police officers are deployed to calls for people in emotional distress. The newly trained 4,000 CIT officers should be redeployed to answer EDP calls.

Right now these highly trained officers, who are appropriately responsive to mental health crises, are just working their old beats.

The Emergency Service Unit or ESU is the only group of officers to currently respond to CIT calls. They are only 300 of a 35,000 NYPD force. So it takes ESU much longer to get to a call. And ESU is not geared to the de-escalation approach for mental health recipients. ESU is trained to respond in situations involving aggression and force rather than in situations that require support and better communication.

In addition, we call on the NYPD to train 10,000 officers in the newest CIT training, not just the 5,000 the NYPD promised.

Lastly, during the interim until the newly trained CIT force takes over in response to EDP calls, we need ESU retrained in CIT techniques. This will ultimately benefit every New Yorker in a crisis situation.

You will hear today from

  • Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access,
  • Wendy Brennan, Executive Director of NAMI,
  • And those impacted by negative police interactions
  • Danny Porro a close friend of Deborah Danner and
  • Dustin Grose who has been impacted by a lack of police training.