How to Help Mentally Ill Offenders

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Last year, the NYPD responded to more than 87,000 calls having to do with emotionally disturbed people. Melissa Reuland, senior research associate at the Police Executive Research Forum, Louise Pyers, executive director of the Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement (CABLE), and NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne weigh in on how the NYPD polices the mentally ill and how they might do a better job.


Paul Browne, Louise Pyers and Melissa Reuland

Comments [12]

A Peer Of So Many from N.Y.C.

I've wondered often-times if individuals knew the unjustified and constant punishment I've received, the constant unjust incarcerations due to being overwhelmed by my illness.
The rage I felt while incarcerated for not being understood and imprisoned, when not offered the services that could've prevented so much time wasted, abused, and lefted in a jail cell to be tortured further with unnatural thoughts.
The madness, that urged me to believe everyone who was suppose to be there to help me was against me, especially the law, the insanity that shook me to the core of my being to take it out on everyone when released back to society regardless to whom or what.
Luckily, rippd has provided an outlet to release the anger and in the process know it's ok, they just didn't understand. When I explain they know and no one suffers what I did or think what I thought due to being abandoned.

Mar. 27 2008 08:27 PM
Mary Dougherty, RIPPD from Bronx, NY

It is a shame that this conversation (How to Help Mentally Ill Offenders) seems to have existed in a vacuum. Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities, RIPPD, has been exposing this issue since its inception in 2003. It seems that people directly affected are often times left out of the conversation. The consumer community is not and should not be represented by one individual as is the case with many articles and discussions about this issue. It seems as though any individual who is assertive when speaking out against public policy and the NYC administrations is blacklisted. They are deemed aggressive and negative for exposing the real truth. However when psychiatrists and other "professionals" makes a generalization about people with mental illness, classifying them as "violent" as Dr. Eth did in the City Limits discussion they is praised for their expert opinion. What about the violence of the NYPD? They have long been abusing their powers on people with mental illness. Countless people have died because of their actions. We at RIPPD know that the conflict existed long before RIPPD and that it can not be ignored. It is necessary for this conflict to be exposed. RIPPD always comes to the table with questions as well as worthwhile solutions. We are not opposed to working with government officials; they are opposed to working with us. We will continue to fight until the voices of the people are truly heard. ~

Mar. 27 2008 06:12 PM
Carlos Sabater from New York City

Join us for the first time ever NYC:Pre- Booking Jail Diversion / Crisis Intervention Team Forum: Wednesday, June 4th , 2008
at Fordham University, Lincoln Center
140 W 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023
McNally Amphitheatre
Come join people directly affected, advocates, goverment officials, academics, and legal providers as they engage in an open discussion about the current state of the criminal justice system and how pre-booking jail diversion can be implemented to best service people with psychiatric disabilities.Forum will run from 9:00Am till 1:00PM to register please visit: or contact Lisa Ortega (646-260-6575)Co- Sponsored by Fordham University;Graduate School or Social Service Alumni Association

Mar. 27 2008 04:56 PM
Jaime from Queens

The police seem very capable in safely subduing and taking into custody a wild animal when presented with a need to do so. Why is it that when facing a human being under such circumstances the same compassion and understanding is not the starting point for intervention?

Mar. 27 2008 12:14 PM
M.Greene from Upper West Side, Manhattan

The NYPD was immensely helpful to me and a family member who became psychotic. The problems arose AFTER 2 officers took the patient to the psych ER and HIPPA rules prevented the hospital from giving me any information. The ER discharged the patient, who suffered more psychotic episodes before finally admitting himself to a psychiatric hospital.

Mar. 27 2008 12:12 PM
James from New York

Has anyone tallied up how many 'innocent bystanders' may have been hurt or killed (however 'unintentionally') by people in the grip of a mental health crisis vs. how many of the later have been hurt or accidentally killed by police? As always, the police are called upon to clean up another social mess (i.e. inadequate mental health policies & systems) and get tarnished when there is the inevitable mishap, however otherwise exemplary their record in handling such incidents may be.

Mar. 27 2008 11:43 AM
Chris from NJ

Problem is that police can use less violent/ mor calm approaches, but they don't know ahead of time how dangerous the person is.

Mar. 27 2008 11:29 AM
Maya from Brooklyn

The vomit-sticks featured in the movie "Minority Report"? OK, I'm joking on the details, but not on the issue. Point being, there are other ways to de-escalate a violent situation.

Mar. 27 2008 11:25 AM
paul from nyc

Can't they use a net? It seems degrading but less harmful then bullets.

Mar. 27 2008 11:20 AM
Sarah from Long Island

When police respond to an emotionally disturbed person who is putting another life (lives) in danger, I understand why they have to neutralize the threat but is it necessary to shoot to kill? Can't they shoot to wound or restrain, or shoot a tranquilizer dart...?

Mar. 27 2008 11:17 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

I think we need to start with prevention. Help them when they are younger. We obviously need to expand our access to mental health services. There are tons of therapist but no one can afford them, therefore, the people who need and would benefit from the services don't get them.

This is a very serious matter.

Mar. 27 2008 11:00 AM
David from NYC

Even before this segment starts, I believe I know a big part of the problem: a longstanding taboo on equating mental health with physical health. While progress has been made, much remains to be brought about.

I have a fairly decent health plan through my employer, and even it has strict limits on mental health services. If I wanted to go to a counselor / psychologist / psychiatrist (the plan groups theses together), I am limited to eight visits per year with the highest co-pay of any services.

On the other side, such a strong effort 20-30 years ago to close institutions has continued to severely limit options for our citizens who need mental health services. Instead of attempting to fix the problems, the severe problems, of mental institutions, critics on both the left and right joined to close them.

And, do we really expect a police officer to effectively handle a mentally or emotionally disturbed person? If we're going to expect cops to be experts in crime prevention / crime solving / drug abuse prevention / traffic enforcement / hostage negotiations / crowd control / emotional disturbance / public safety / etc., we'd better train them better and pay them better.

Mar. 27 2008 09:48 AM

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