Board Calls For Preventive Mental Health Reform In WNY
On Friday, January 29, 2021 in Rochester N.Y., a nine year old child was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed. Police were called to the home following reports of “family trouble.” Body camera footage showed officers restraining the girl, pushing her into the snow to administer handcuffs while she screamed repeatedly for her father. She was forced into the car, and pepper-sprayed when she did not calm down in a way the officers deemed appropriate, as she pleaded F for them to wipe her eyes. “You’re acting like a child,” one office scolded. The girl replied, “I am a child!”
The Buffalo Police Advisory Board (BPAB) released the following statement condemning the incident: ” The Buffalo Police Advisory Board finds the actions of the Rochester Police Department unacceptable, and this incident highlights the need for mental health reforms in police departments.
The killing of Daniel Prude that took place in Rochester on March 30, 2020 and the shooting of Willie Henley in Buffalo on September 2020 have demonstrated what activists and health professionals of both cities have said: police officers are not properly equipped, trained, or prepared to deal with mental health crises or situations dealing with emotional trauma. “
Presently, the City of Buffalo does not have a wide-spread, government operated diversion program. A diversion program would place the process of working with mentally ill individuals in need of assistance in the hands of professionals with extensive professional training and experience needed to successfully attempt de-escalation and link with long-term services.
Therefore, the BPAB has called upon the Council to take steps with the Mayor’s Office, Buffalo Police Department, and County to create a diversion model based on the following recommendations:
• Dispatching calls: Train 911 dispatchers and place mental health professionals in the 911 call center for ongoing support and guidance.
• Community education: It’s necessary for the community to understand mental illness and how to communicate about it for a functional city-wide mental health system to be successful.
• Team Composition: Diversion teams should include a EMS worker and a qualified mental health professional (QMP) in accordance with New York State Mental Hygiene Law