NY1 Covers Sen. Klein's Bill To Better Prepare Police For Interactions With The Mentally Disturbed

August 22, 2011

Several interactions between police and the mentally ill have ended with violence, bringing attention to an issue that law enforcement officials and advocacy groups want to see remedied. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.In March, police shot and killed a knife-wielding man at 1545 Rhinelander Avenue in the Bronx. It turns out he was mentally disturbed and had been arrested 16 times.Lawmakers say the shooting might have been avoided if police knew about the man's history."Over the last year at 1545, there's been 150 calls to 911," said Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein.Klein said a lot of those calls were related to issues involving mentally ill people placed in apartments there by a social services agency known as FEGS. He and Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera introduced legislation requiring agencies to tell police when large numbers of mentally ill people are placed in one building."If their clients or several of their clients have a criminal history or pose a danger to the community, they have to notify local law enforcement," said Klein.Lawmakers say many agencies are moving clients back into the community because state facilities are closing down."This is not new, and it is not isolated to one neighborhood. It is across the state and other states," said Rivera.Over the years, there have been several controversial cases of mentally or emotionally ill people being killed by police.Kheil Coppin was killed in a hail of police bullets in Brooklyn in 2007. He yelled that he had a gun. The schizophrenic teen had a hairbrush.In 2008, Iman Morales was totally naked on a store awning while waving a light bulb at police. They tasered him, and he fell to his death.Lisa Ortega from Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities said turning over mental health information violates privacy rights and that she wants more training and crisis intervention teams."Made up of healthcare professionals dealing with mental illness and someone who has a mental illness that has recovered and actually understands the behavior of people with mental illness," said Ortega.Officials say they don't want the information to be public. They also support more training for officers.