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Report: Less Than a Quarter of NYPD Officers Trained to Handle Encounters With Mentally Ill

By Erica Davies | Jan 19, 2017

Less than a quarter of the NYPD’s force are properly trained to handle mental health crisis incidents, despite encountering over 400 incidents daily, a new report by the city’s Department of Investigation revealed Thursday.

As of December 2016, roughly 4,700 officers have completed Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training to de-escalate encounters with the mentally ill. The figure represents just 13 percent of the NYPD’s 34,500 officers.

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More than a year and a half after Mayor de Blasio implemented CIT training, the NYPD’s dispatch system can’t identify officers who have completed the training program, which could potentially create problems for a force that handles roughly 400 calls involving “mental crisis” daily, the report said.

The report noted that the police sergeant who shot and killed Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old woman with a history of schizophrenia, in October hadn’t received CIT training. A quarter of the 991 people shot to death in 2015 exhibited signs of mental illness.

Although the initiative is a step in the right direction to properly handling situations involving the mentally ill, the NYPD has no CIT-specific personnel to align the department’s policies with its training, the report found.

Inspector General Philip Eure suggested several methods to effectively reconcile CIT tactics and department policies:

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-Commit to timelining changes to its CIT program within 90 days of the report’s publication. The report says the NYPD recently indicated it will consider changing its effots, but the DOI recommends that the Department “devleop specific timelines for implementing these critically important changes.”

-Change its dispatch procedures to deploy officers with CIT training to crisis incidents.

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-Develop a specific system to analyze data on encounters involving “people in crisis” and require officers to complete a form for these encounters, similar to a system Seattle’s police department has already employed in its own police force.

Eure noted that CIT training should be designed to produce a cultural shift in the way that officers deal with mentally ill people and positive improvements in police interactions.

“NYPD’s reluctance to adjust current policy reflects NYPD’s failure to recognize that the benefits of CIT cannot be fully realized with an isolated training program,” he said. “Instead, CIT should be designed to produce a cultural shift within the police department that leads to better and safer police interactions with people in mental crisis.”

NYPD Spokesperson Kellyann Ort says the department is providing a list of all crisis intervention-trained personnel to supervisors during every shift to direct officers on how to respond to those types of calls.

“The NYPD is continuously working to provide our officers with the best training and equipment in order to effectively deal with the wide variety of situations they may encounter,” she said. “The Department is conducting crisis intervention training (CIT) for our officers.”

The Department will respond formally to the inspector general within 90 days, Ort added.

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