NYPD ordered to deal with mentally ill better by... using different words

Everyone seems to agree that we have a mental health crisis on our hands these days and it’s a problem that’s particularly exacerbated in our larger cities. As if the police don’t have enough on their plates as it is, when they show up at the scene of a disturbance and find themselves confronting a mentally ill person things can quickly spiral out of control. In the Big Apple, Mayor Bill de Blasio has had enough of this issue and he’s going to do something about it. From now on, the cops will be ordered to stop referring to the mentally ill as “EDPs” (“emotionally disturbed persons”). In the future, all such incidents will be referred to as “mental health calls.” That should fix everything, right? (NY Post)

NYPD cops will have to stop referring to dangerously unhinged people as “EDPs” — short for “emotionally disturbed persons” — as part of a $37 million program to deal with serious mental-health emergencies, according to a new report on Monday.

The long-established lingo will be abandoned in favor of “mental health calls,” sources told The City website, which described the change in terminology as one of the “key elements” of a plan by Mayor Bill de Blasio to reform how cops deal with mentally ill people.

“One in five New Yorkers suffers from a mental health condition. It’s our job to reach those people before crisis strikes,” de Blasio said in a statement announcing the new spending.

On top of the change in language, NYPD officers responding to reports of a “mental health call” will be joined by a mental-health worker from the newly formed Behavioral Health Unit.”

The cops are already up in arms over this plan and for good reason. First of all, what difference is it going to make in terms of the actual suspect/patient if the police describe them differently over the dispatch radio? It’s not as if they’re showing up on the scene and yelling “EDP!” at them. Nor does the new terminology make the situation any less dangerous either for the suspect or the responding officers.

One cop was quoted as saying, “What the f–k difference does it make what we call them? It’s the same thing. Enough with the Kumbaya. How about taking care of the main problem, which is a lack of mental-health care?”

That part of the new plan is literally just a matter of semantics, so perhaps it won’t cause too many problems. But the idea of dispatching a mental-health worker to an active crime scene is really worrying (and angering) the NYPD. You can probably guess why.

The need for better care for the mentally ill is obvious and if the city plans to do something constructive about that we should applaud them. But nobody is calling 911 because they see someone who looks depressed or is talking to their imaginary friend. By the time the dispatcher gets the call, there’s already a crisis in progress and the person in question is probably in the midst of attacking someone or threatening to do so.

That’s the type of scene that the mayor proposes sending a mental-health expert with no law enforcement training into. The cops already have a violent lunatic on their hands, but now they also have to make sure that the Behavioral Health Unit worker doesn’t get themselves shot or stabbed in the process. As one officer put it, “God forbid you’re a cop and you allow one of these civilians to get hurt.” Another said, “some innocent person is going to die real soon with this program.”

I don’t know what all of these proposals are going to cost the taxpayers of Gotham, but couldn’t that money be put to better use in developing new mental health care facilities and paying for doctors to treat people before we reach the point where they’re swinging a samurai sword in Times Square? It’s another bang-up job by City Hall in the Big Apple. Hizzoner is once again finding unique ways to throw money at a problem without addressing the underlying issue.

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