When New York City police responded to a call at a Brooklyn apartment last year, they were confronted by a man who banged on their patrol car with a steak knife, refused orders to put it down and finally lunged at officers before one of them shot him to death.
What officers didn’t know at the time was that 22-year-old Rexford Dasrath had a long history of mental illness, and his mother believes he would be alive today if police were better trained to deal with such situations.
Mental health advocates agree, and they propose the state spend $2 million to establish training programs to help cops assess and de-escalate confrontations with such suspects while establishing “crisis intervention teams” with mental health professionals.
“When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” said state Sen. Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat who has introduced legislation to establish a New York City pilot program. A separate measure is being proposed in the City Council. “We’re here to say someone going through a mental illness crisis is not a criminal.”
The model is already used by 2,700 other cities nationwide.