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The NYPD needs a new approach in how it handles mentally ill and disturbed residents, one elected official said this week.
State Senator Eric Adams demanded that that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly create a new crisis intervention unit to handle situations like the one that ended in the death of psychiatric patient Iman Morales.
Morales died last week after cops shot him with a Taser gun as he stood naked on a security gate above a Tompkins Avenue storefront.
The shock caused Morales to lose his balance.
Witnesses said he toppled head first to the ground ten feet below. No protective padding had been placed on the ground to cushion his fall, officials said.
An NYPD lieutenant, who has since been placed on modified assignment, ordered his subordinate to Taser Morales because he kept poking them with a florescent bulb, not allowing them to get close enough to grab hold of him.
Investigators put the lieutenant on modified assignment because his order violated NYPD guidelines.
Yet Adams said that this tragedy could have ended without any bloodshed if cops specially trained with handling disturbed men and women had responded to the scene.
A special team trained in handling emotionally disturbed people would benefit both the NYPD and the people they are tying to assist.
“Our model of policing these situations is not acceptable anymore,” he told reporters, adding that if the NYPD didn’t entertain his idea by the year’s end, he would put in legislation demanding that the police department make the necessary changes.
In published reports, an NYPD spokesperson said that the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit “responds successfully to over 80,000 calls annually involving emotionally disturbed persons and are by far the most experienced of any law enforcement agency.”
“In virtually all instances, department training and guidelines are adhered to,” the spokesman said.
Morales’ death has also sparked criticism from members of the Civil Liberties Union.
“At a time when the NYPD is considering arming patrol officers with Tasers, this incident illustrates the dangers they pose and highlights the need for both clear policies and extensive training on the use of these potentially deadly weapons,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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