EDP’s Love/Hate Relationship With NYPD
A look at NYPD’s involvement with those suffering from a mental illness.
Imagine yourself going about your day, minding your own business and you get stopped by the police- for no apparent reason other than “seeming odd.” How does one seem odd? Could being at a red light, dancing and singing in your car show signs of a person that is “not all there” or signs of a happy person enjoying their day? For one New Yorker, her up beat happiness on that particular day cost her eight days in a psych ward.
Kam Brock, a Long Island native, was pulled over and arrested for not having her hands on the wheel according to the officer that arrested her. However, Brock states she was at a red light at the time the cop came up to her and she was just dancing in her car. She was released later on in the day but was told to come back the next day for her car. Ms. Brock did as she was told and returned the following day to retrieve her car, however when she showed up to claim her BMW, she states police did not believe she owned a BMW, that she was making it up and called EMS to come and take her. She was put in cuffs and taken to a local hospital.
According to Brock’s attorney, she has no history of mental illness and was telling the truth about her car and who she was but was not believed. Instead she was treated as a patient with a mental disorder, was hospitalized and drugged in a psych ward over the next eight days. Ms. Brock got a first hand, inside look to how our law enforcement treats those with mental disorders. So just how can the NYPD pinpoint those who suffer from mental illness?
An NYPD official, whom requested to remain anonymous says that it’s pretty obvious, “They’re yelling, they’re naked…their family members are there telling us what they have and that they haven’t taken their meds,” stated the source. It would appear the individual is acting erratic and this behavior gets them labeled an EDP: an emotionally disturbed person. Up until recently, the NYPD gave a training course to deal with the mentally ill that involved one full 8-hour training day. Some experts would argue this is not enough to fully understand the extent to which these individuals are suffering.
Ushi Beregovich, a mental health social worker, states there is a stigma between law enforcement and EDP’s because there is a misconception that those whom suffer from a mental disorder are violent when in most cases its the complete opposite. “Their violence comes from their fear of seeing a police officer because they don’t know what’s going to happen to them or how they will be treated,” states Ms. Beregovich. According to a report from the department of Mental Health, 1 in 5 New Yorkers suffer from a mental disorder and approximately 8% have symptoms of depression.
The battle between the mentally ill and law enforcement has been on going for decades. It’s a sort of “chicken or the egg” story with them, those with mental disorders look at law enforcements as the enemy and law enforcement believe they need to be better taken care of. According to Officer McMilleon, “It goes back to their families and the city…they keep letting them out, clearly these programs aren’t working.” For a parent or family member dealing with someone whom is mentally ill, it seems not just the programs, but the whole city is failing them. Ken Murray, a photojournalist for the NY Daily News has a son, Ken Murray Jr. who suffers from schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. According to Murray Sr., his son wanders the city streets for days at a time before he either comes home or he has to go looking for him. He claims his son has been arrested more times than he has been helped by NYPD, “They would rather arrest him than take him to the hospital,” says Murray Sr. However, even when his son is admitted to a hospital he will be released within 3–4 days due to city rules. If the person is not a danger to themselves or others, and does not show signs of being suicidal the hospital can legally release them, and sadly for most- like Ken’s son- back to roaming the streets they go.
At a time where police actions are being put under a microscope, is when New York’s finest should come together and work with its fellow New Yorkers, especially those that can not fend for themselves, such as the mentally ill. “Excessive force will not be tolerated,” this is what’s written in the New York Police Departments general regulations guide, on its section discussing the ‘use of force.’ It is written that they are only to use excessive force as a last resort because their primary objective is to preserve life. Yet, recent headlines involving NYPD and the mentally ill have police being brutal with them, and in some cases causing death.
Back in 2016, the NYPD fatally shot a woman in the Bronx whom was suffering from schizophrenia. The whole incident was under scrutiny as well as the NYPD for failing to ‘isolate and contain’ the situation, even Mayor De Blasio called the incident, “tragic and it is unacceptable.” Since then the NYPD has begun a new program called the “Crisis Intervention Training.” This new program will give extensive training to current and new police officers on how to deal with the mentally ill. It will go over four full days and put them in real life scenarios as well as teach them how to speak to EDP’s and learn how to de-escalate the situation. The hope is with this new training, those that truly need help will get it, in the right hands as oppose to being put in handcuffs.