New York City’s 911 system is inundated with calls reporting problems with a “possible E.D.P.” — an emotionally disturbed person. The three letters are relayed over police radios hundred of times a day, more than 100,000 times a year. Dealing with mentally ill people has long been a vexing and volatile aspect of patrolling the city. Unpredictable encounters can escalate from noisy hassles into explosive situations in which officers may be injured and civilians may be restrained or even shot. Now these confrontations seem poised to proliferate, reports the New York Times. Mayor Eric Adams said last week that the city would give police officers more latitude to remove New Yorkers living on the streets or in the subways for immediate screening and treatment. Adams has called the mental health crisis a major driver of crime in the subway. His announcement raised questions about whether police officers, who are not trained health professionals, should decide whether someone is mentally ill enough to take them to a hospital in handcuffs.
“What’s the criteria to determine whether someone else needs help? If they don’t have a coat on in the winter? There’s a hundred different permutations to the question,” said Keith Ross, a retired police officer who spent more than a decade on patrol in housing projects. “I don’t think there was much thought put into the implementation, how this was going to work,” said Ross, now an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. While Adams’s initiative does not give the police more legal grounds to commit mentally ill people, it provides them with resources to execute existing state law that lets them take residents involuntarily to a hospital when their behavior threatens themselves or others. Police received 139,199 emergency calls involving people in apparent emotional crisis through September, compared to 128,488 for that period last year.