New York City to Test No-Police Mental Health Responses

Written with contribution from Sheriff David Clarke

While New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio has a long history of animosity towards the New York Police Department, the city is now considering a move that could, at least in theory, be a pretty good idea for both police officers and members of the public.

The Big Apple is set to begin experimenting with no-police mental health responses for cases that don’t involve weapons or a history of violence.

The aim is to send trained mental health professionals to respond to crises rather than police officers, who specialize in de escalating potentially violent situations more than they do counseling someone experiencing a psychological crisis.

NBC New York reports:

New York City police will stay out of many mental health crisis calls and social workers will respond instead in parts of northern Manhattan starting this spring, an official told lawmakers Monday.

The test program will begin in three Harlem and East Harlem police precincts that together accounted for a highest-in-the-city total of over 7,400 mental health-related 911 calls last year, said Susan Herman, who heads a wide-ranging city mental health initiative called ThriveNYC.

The details fleshed out a plan the city outlined broadly in November, aiming to keep psychiatric crises from escalating into confrontations and to provide people with more health-focused help.

“If you have a call, a family in distress, someone with a mental health challenge, there’s no history of violence, there’s no weapon present — that’s a call that should be handled by civilians, folks with the right training, mental health abilities, go in there and help that family,” explained de Blasio of the program in an interview on Monday night.

“So much we’re talking about — homelessness, incarceration, dropout rates — so many things came back to mental health challenges. So, we’re making a fundamental investment here to say let’s change how we approach it, and then the NYPD can take that time and energy that’s freed up and focus it on the things that they do the best, which is to protect public safety in general. That balance needs to be re-struck.”

We can only assume that what de Blasio thinks the NYPD “does best” is round up Orthodox Jews having a funeral during a pandemic, as that is the only time in recent memory that the vehemently anti-police mayor has approved of anything they do at all.

The rest of the time, he thinks they’re literally systemic racism and was a very proud father when his own daughter was arrested skirmishing with police during the BLM riots.

This is not in and of itself a bad policy decision. It has not however been thoroughly thought through. Seems more knee-jerk in response to cop haters. Like calls  for defunding police. That hasn’t turned out well.  We will see how this idea goes. It won’t be long before police are called to back up the mental health professionals who are not trained in nor equipped for a violent reaction from the subject.

Then what?

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