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NY Police Officers Get Little Training On Hospitalizing The Mentally Ill

Two New York Police Department officers patrolling a public housing complex spot a woman in a tank top and slippers muttering incoherently to herself. The woman says the street is her home, but the temperature is expected to drop below freezing. How should they respond? The hypothetical is among five posed to police officers in a 15-minute presentation on situations that may warrant involuntary hospitalization. The training was prepared to brief patrol officers on Mayor Eric Adams’ directive that people may be forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation when mental illness is seemingly preventing them from meeting their own basic needs, putting them at risk of harm, reports Politico. The presentation slides are incorporated in a 9-minute video that describes when someone experiencing mental illness should be brought to the hospital against their will and walks officers through a step-by-step protocol. The records were obtained by the New York Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit filed in March against the NYPD. Adams has homed in on the intersecting crises of homelessness and mental illness as part of a larger effort to address voters’ concerns about crime and perception of public safety. His approach has drawn outrage — and legal action — from civil rights advocates who see it as both ineffective in tackling serious mental health concerns and a dangerous infringement of individuals’ constitutional rights. The advocates have criticized police involvement in implementing Adams’ directive in light of numerous instances of people in a mental health crisis being killed or seriously injured by police officers. Adams, a former police captain, has responded by saying patrol officers would hand off cases of someone in crisis to others on the force “who have a deeper training than the surface training that an everyday police officer would.” The training materials indicate that any uniformed officer has the authority to decide someone needs to be brought involuntarily to a hospital because of the inability to care for one’s self. The civil liberties group's Beth Haroules said the presentation seems inconsistent with city officials’ pledge to provide police with in-depth training on the “unable to meet basic needs” standard and a refresher on crisis communication strategies. Between the slides and the video, patrol officers appear to be receiving no more than 25 minutes worth of a refresher.

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