The New York" id="PLGEO100100800000000">New York Police Department has a new alert system that lets officers know if they are responding to locations where police have previously been sent to deal with the mentally ill, an initiative sparked by the fatal 2007 shooting of a man who confronted officers with a broken wine bottle.
Under terms of the month-old initiative, a 911 dispatcher handling a
"triggering incident" -- anything from a "shots fired" call to an
assault in progress -- checks the address to see if it has been the
scene of three previous incidents involving an emotionally disturbed
person in the preceding 365 days, according to an internal New York City Police Department" id="ORGOV0000107">NYPD order.
A police patrol supervisor, who is usually armed with a portable Taser, is also sent to the scene.
The program is designed to strengthen what observers and critics have
typically seen as a police shortcoming. Two deadly confrontations in
November 2007, including one involving the man with the bottle, plus a
recent case in which a naked man fell to his death after he was jolted
with a Taser, illustrate the challenges police face in such
The NYPD is also working with mental health officials to identify
locations, such as group homes, that house the mentally ill, according
to Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, the NYPD's top spokesman.
"You don't want to leave it to an officer -- hopefully the police
officer on duty is one who happens to remember who lives there," Browne
says. "It's better if we know in advance about these locations."
Police in Nassau and Suffolk have similar alert programs, which experts say could mean the difference between life and death.
"It's definitely not a cure-all," says Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at John Jay" id="PEHST001018">John Jay
College of Criminal Justice. "But it gets the supervisor rolling early,
it gets ESU rolling early and it gets the officers going there talking
so they can tactically prepare for what to do."
The NYPD last year responded to 87,000 911 calls involving an emotionally disturbed person, up from 64,000 in 1999.
A panel of city and state mental health and criminal justice officials
earlier this year recommended the NYPD "establish flags within its 911
database" that would require a response by ESU officers.
Browne, though, said the impetus came earlier, following the November
2007 police shooting of David Kostovski, 29, a mental patient who came
at them with a broken wine bottle in a street confrontation in East New York" id="PLGEO100100802012500">East New York in Brooklyn (New York City)" id="PLGEO100100802010000">Brooklyn.
Kostovski lived in a home with several other psychiatric patients, a fact police had not known.
Six days earlier, psychiatric patient Khiel Coppin, 18, was shot dead
in Bedford-Stuyvesant when he advanced at police outside his building
armed with only a hairbrush, but claiming he had a gun.
The new initiative would not have applied to his case because there was no documented police responses at his home.