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New York Lawmakers Call for Better Police Treatment of Individuals With Mental Health Concerns

by Stephanie Colombini
A A

Dayana Suncar, WFUV 

Crisis Intervention Teams could reduce the risk of escalated conflict during NYPD response calls involving "emotionally disturbed individuals."

New York lawmakers announced legislation today that could improve the way NYPD officers respond to people with mental health concerns. 

Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD Captain Eric Adams attended a press conference at City Hall today to support the legislation. He says police officers who aren't properly trained to engage emotionally disturbed residents could make the wrong call and hurt somebody. He said it's crucial for the loved ones of distressed individuals to feel they can trust police officers when they call for help. 

"They're looking for you to take the family member to some form of care," he said. "They are not looking for you to carry that family member out in a body bag."

The NYPD responds to about 100,000 of what they dub "emotionally disturbed person" calls each year. And sometimes things get out of control.

Suzanne LaFont experienced this first-hand when she was arrested for trying to intervene with police officers last April. She says they attacked her disoriented husband, who was recovering from open-heart surgery, after they deemed his behavior to be "abnormal." But LaFont said normal's a very subjective thing.  

"For me, 'not normal' is calling 9-1-1 for an ambulance, and having your husband beaten and arrested," she said.

LaFont said she's terrified of calling 9-1-1 after the incident.

"The police should be here to protect us," she said. "We should never feel that we have to protect our loved ones from the police."

The bill would implement a crisis intervention team to train officers to handle these types of crisis situations. The bill would also increase the involvement of mental health professionals in the response process.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment. 

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