NYC Rally Calls on NYC to Step Up CIT, Mental Health/Criminal Justice Efforts

NYAPRS Note: Today’s news is filled with coverage of yesterday’s impassioned NYC rally on the steps of City Hall that, on the anniversary of Deborah Danner’s tragic killing by a NYPD officer, renewed calls for a major expansion in the number of officers trained in the Crisis Intervention Team training, the creation of drop in centers to serve people in the throes of a mental health related crisis and the reformation of the NYC Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System that made numerous recommendations back 2014 that still need to be implemented. While the City has taken small steps in this area, so much more is needed! Just look back to Deborah Danner’s words to see why:
Great thanks are due to the leadership of Community Access, Institute for Community Living and their partners for yesterday’s powerful demonstration.

NYPD to Step Up Mental Health Crisis Training. But Is It Enough?
Crain’s Health Pulse October 19, 2017

In the two years since Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would better train the NYPD to handle confrontations with New Yorkers suffering from mental illnesses, police have killed at least seven people when responding to calls of 'emotional distress.' One was Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old with schizophrenia. A police officer shot and killed her while she was wielding a bat in her home in the Bronx last year.

On the one-year anniversary of Danner's death Wednesday, mental health advocates debated where the city should put its resources in order to avoid such incidents moving forward. One advocate, D.J. Jaffe, wrote inan op-edin the Daily News that the money used to train NYPD officers to respond to mental health episodes—about $17 million in the program's first two years—would be better spent enhancing services for people with "serious" mental illnesses. After all, he said, "police step in only after the mental health system fails."

But mental health advocates and family members of victims who held a press conference at the foot of City Hall on Wednesday said the NYPD's crisis intervention team (CIT) training works, if implemented properly. In fact, they said, it should be expanded to cover more officers, and only trained officers should respond to the more than 400 calls of emotional distress the NYPD handles each day.

"Any time they have a hostage situation, they send specially trained officers and will not let any other officer intervene, because they understand this situation is unique," said Lorenzo Diggs, a peer specialist who is trained to help those like himself who have had experience with a mental illness and the criminal justice system. "This is the same thing."

The NYPD Inspector General's Office echoed advocates' concerns ina report on the CIT programin January. Although CIT training meets national standards, it is "random whether officers assigned by dispatch to mental crisis incidents are CIT-trained," the report said. In addition to training more officers, the IG recommended the department make sure CIT-trained officers are deployed to respond to mental health crises. It also said the department should develop a mechanism for collecting data and analyzing the outcomes of the program.

The city has trained at least 7,000 police officers in crisis intervention and plans to train 23,000 officers by next year.

Advocates are asking de Blasio to reconvene his task force on behavioral health and criminal justice to find ways to involve social workers, mental health clinicians and other nonpolice professionals as first responders to mental health crises.

"Countless people have been saved by officers with training in CIT, but CIT training alone is not going to prevent all these deaths that keep on happening," said Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordinator at Community Access. "We want to create a fully responsive CIT system in New York that's more than just police."

The city has created five "co-response" teams that include both police officers and mental health clinicians from the city's Health Department. A department spokeswoman said the teams have been deployed nearly 2,000 times to "engage people with mental illness and/or substance use who are identified as having escalating behaviors and increasing risk to themselves or the community." The teams are never sent as first responders to a 911 call, however, the spokeswoman said.

She added that recommendations of the mayor's now-defunct task force are being implemented. After delays in the plan, the city says that by next year it will have two diversion centers where police officers can take people with mental illnesses to be connected to services, rather than taking them to jail or an emergency room. —C.L.
Year After Fatal Shooting, NYPD Training To Deal With Mentally Ill
WNYW | New York (Fox 5 News) October 18, 2017

A year has passed since an NYPD sergeant shot and killed an emotionally disturbed woman inside her apartment in the Bronx. That confrontation led to a lot questions about how the police department deals with the mentally ill.

Since the fatal shooting of Deborah Danner, the NYPD has reshaped its training by doubling down on what is known as crisis intervention training, which emphasizes the skills needed deescalate. But some think more can be done.

Carla Rabinowitz an advocate with Community Access, a nonprofit that helps people with mental health concerns. She said the good news is that the NYPD is implementing CIT, which teaches officers how to interact with people with mental health issues.

She is part of a group holding a rally Wednesday at City Hall to draw attention and push for changes related to how police handle emotionally disturbed people. The rally coincides with the first anniversary of Danner's death. Danner had a history of mental health issues.

The sergeant who shot her was charged with murder and manslaughter.

Other cities have adopted approaches that include using social workers, psychologists, or peers to show up on the scene and in some cases even ride with police.

Rabinowitz said the newer training is good but challenges included getting officers trained in crisis intervention training to these incidents.

Mental Health Advocate Sees Missed Opportunities in Fatal NYPD Shooting
DNAinfo New York

It’s been one year since the fatal shooting of mentally ill, bat-wielding Bronx resident Deborah Danner at the hands of an NYPD sergeant in The Bronx — an incident immediately condemned by both the mayor and police commissioner. NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry has since been indicted for murder, and the department is scrambling to retrain its officers on how to handle cases of emotionally disturbed people.

DNAinfo recently spoke to a mental-health advocate who analyzed video of another recent fatal police shooting of a weapon-wielding, mentally ill person — the first one captured by the NYPD on body cameras — to hear what she believes could have been done differently.

Carla Rabinowitz, the director of an organization that advocates for the mentally ill, reviewed a set of NYPD body-cam videos released last month involving the fatal police shooting of Miguel Richards, 31, in his Eastchester apartment.

What she saw disturbed her.

Her organization, Community Access, believes police should respond to crisis calls with support from mental-health professionals. But the organization also supports the Crisis Intervention Team model, which some members of the NYPD are already trained in.

Under the CIT model, responding officers would have tried to start a dialogue with Richards, asking questions like, "How are you?" "What's going on today?" "Can I get you something?" "Are you thirsty?" "Do you want a water?" and "Why are you holding a knife?"

In the first two minutes, Rabinowitz counted seven commands given by the officers, who can be seen standing at the doorway of Richards' room. He remains impassive, standing still, and holding a knife.

They said: "Put your knife down," "Let me see your hand," "Let me see your other hand," "Drop that knife," "I don't want to shoot you," "Put that knife down," and "What's in your other hand?" she observed.

Later, the officers told Richards to "Move the bag away" and "Put up your hands" before asking him, "Do you want to die?"

"Officers kept on repeating commands and threats of force throughout the 17 minutes," Rabinowitz said. "This is an example of a command and control approach that does not work for those in emotional distress. Officers come in with guns drawn and try to gain compliance by threat of force. This does not work for someone in emotional distress who is not thinking rationally, and may fear the police."

“Maybe he wanted a suicide," she said, adding, "maybe he was hearing voices."

Rabinowitz noted that officers in the video had a clear view of the room and might have identified items that could help get a conversation going and defuse the situation.

Questions an officer in a similar situation could ask include: "I see you have a TV? What do you watch?" or "Your landlord called us, do you two get along?" Other questions could have included, "I see a picture of you and someone else. Who is in the picture with you?" and "Are you a sports fan? Those Yankees are doing good," according to Rabinowitz.

She said that emotionally disturbed people confronted by officers may not even understand that it's police they are dealing with, or may be triggered by their presence.

In the case of Danner, the 66-year-old woman shot by Sgt. Hugh Barry in Castle Hill, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill condemned the shooting.

"We did fail and we need to say it out loud," the mayor said at the time. The Bronx District Attorney eventually leveled murder charges against the officer.

The Richards video ends after he raised a toy gun with a laser pointer, which officers took to be real, and they opened fire, killing him.

"Sometimes mental-health recipients, when they see police, will get very, very afraid," Rabinowitz said. "They will pick up a bottle, they’ll pick up a kitchen knife."

In the case of Richards, she said he never approached the officers with his knife and there was an alternative to shooting him even if he wouldn't talk. –
NYPD Training Helps Officers Respond To Calls Involving Mentally Ill
Fox News October 19, 2017

Police officers in New York City can take part in training program focused on skills that will help them respond to calls involving people with mental health concerns. The Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which launched in 2015, is a four-day class that emphasizes active listening skills, building rapport with subjects, demonstrating empathy and de-escalating situations, according to

“The good thing is that the NYPD is training officers in this wonderful new CIT approach,” Carla Rabinowitz, of Community Access, told Fox 5 NY.

Rabinowitz will be part of a rally held at City Hall on Wednesday meant to bring attention to how police deal with mental health. The rally was planned to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Deborah Danner’s death. Danner had a history of mental issues and was shot by an NYPD sergeant responding to a call inside her Bronx apartment.

Other police departments across the country have implemented similar programs for their officers, which sees social workers, psychologists or peer support specialists respond to the call alongside cops.

“When it comes to somebody that’s going through a psychotic episode, that’s a victim within oneself, I need a little something extra,” Lorenzo Diggs, a forensic peer specialist, told Fox 5 NY. “Come with someone that has time and training to empathize with that person.”

According to, the department fields more than 100,000 calls regarding emotionally disturbed individuals each year. CIT was developed by NYPD experts and mental health professionals and researchers.