Legislators Lafazan and Bynoe Introduce Proposal to Conduct Review of Alternative Approaches to
Mental Health Response and Intervention by Law Enforcement
(MINEOLA, N.Y.) - Nassau County would convene a committee to study alternative approaches to mental health responses and intervention by law enforcement under a proposal introduced Friday, June 26 by Nassau County Legislators Joshua A. Lafazan (Woodbury) and Siela A. Bynoe (D – Westbury).
Potential recommendations include but are not limited to: creating a mental health unit within the Nassau County Police Department; establishing protocols for co-deploying mental and behavioral health professionals and non-law enforcement personnel to mental or behavioral health-related police calls; and conducting a nationwide review of best practices in alternative approaches to mental health crisis intervention.
According to statistics, mental health-related calls to police have increased by more than 227 percent since the late 1990s, and officers spend approximately one-fifth of their time responding to these calls. During a recent incident in Far Rockaway, an NYPD officer was arrested after being filmed using a chokehold during a response to an apparent mental health crisis.
“This bill explores creating a new unit within our police department to specifically address calls involving residents with mental illness, as has been done across the nation in cities like Houston and Los Angeles. I believe our police department, as well as every department in America, can benefit from the study of new ideas,” Legislator Lafazan said. “Building a coalition of stakeholders, including public safety experts, to explore how Nassau can best keep our communities safe is smart public policy, and when it comes to treating our most vulnerable residents, I believe this new unit will become a model for other municipalities across New York to follow. The national conversation taking place in America calls for forward progress, and I believe our bill works towards this goal.”
“The deeply concerning and disturbing video footage from Far Rockaway underscores the critical importance of ensuring that law enforcement personnel have access to resources and training that will prepare them to successfully intervene in mental health crisis situations,” Legislator Bynoe said. “By convening this committee, Nassau County has an opportunity to take an important step forward in efforts to build consensus around solutions that will benefit both officers and the public they are entrusted with protecting and serving.”
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, approximately 43.6 million adults in America suffer from mental illness, with 9.8 million of those suffering from a seriously debilitating mental illness.
Further research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the Treatment Advocacy Center indicates that persons with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators and are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. An additional study by the Treatment Advocacy Center indicates that, while numbering fewer than 1 in 50 adults in the United States, individuals with untreated severe mental illness are involved in at least a quarter and as many as one-half of fatal police shootings.