By Carla Rabinowitz, Project Coordinator

Welcome to the website of Communities for Crisis Intervention Teams in New York City ccit nyc.

To learn about what a Crisis Intervention Team is go to Background and Resources page.

To find out about our events, go to Events page.

On our Home page you can find testimony of those impacted and understand what the ccit nyc coalition is asking for at this time.

And to join with NAMI, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, Community Access, RIPPD, Project Renewal, Baltic Street, MFY Legal and other groups in asking for a crisis intervention team in NYC go to Join Our Endorsers page

Let’s celebrate a big win! Mayor Deblasio issued a report agreeing to spend $130 million for criminal justice reform including creating two assessment centers and training 5,000 to 5,500 officers. Read the history behind the CCIT NYC Campaign
How Mayor embraced coalition’s goals

We are honored to welcome a new endorser, the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, local 1180. Thank you CWA 1180.

NYPD Consultant calls for social workers to ride with police


AM New York
George Kelling: Social workers should pair with NYPD
By ALISON FOX June 23, 2014

New Yorkers might see police officers and social workers teamed up on patrol if criminologist and NYPD consultant George Kelling’s vision becomes reality.

Kelling, who is famous for co-writing the Broken Windows Theory, was hired by Commissioner William Bratton in early March to make suggestions as part of a monthslong effort to improve the city’s safety. Kelling, 78,, was hired by Bratton for a similar task the last time he was the city’s top cop in the ’90s.
And after many late-night subway ride-alongs, Kelling — who has a Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a master’s in social work — concluded that people suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues can be better helped by a police-social worker partnership.

“There should be more than arrests or a shelter for these people,” Kelling said. “One way to think about it is for there to be a team that goes out with one or two officers [and] a social worker and go to areas of the subway where you know there are mentally disturbed and substance abuse [sufferers]who you know need help. And you may need to go again and again.”

In the ’80s and ’90s lawlessness in the subways was rampant and needed to be addressed above all else, Kelling said.
However, one recent evening when Kelling was working, he watched a girl use her cellphone in the subway. It was about 11 p.m., he said, and it reminded him how much the city has changed.

“In 1980 you wouldn’t have seen that. Your safety would really be at risk,” he said. “Now we fast forward 20 years and the problem there is very different. It’s a problem of a very damaged, emotionally disturbed and substance abusing population that is in desperate need of help.

“The problem has changed and I think our work has to change as well,” Kelling added. He is currently a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a professor at Rutgers University, and a Harvard fellow.

This is not a new notion — similar tactics have been tried in several cities, including Rochester and several Chicago suburbs. But those programs were not exactly what Kelling is proposing and did not involve going on patrol together.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, declined to comment for this story. The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment. .

“A lot of the encounters police have — a very high percentage — involve social problems that social workers are very adept at handling,” said Dr. Robert Schachter, executive director of New York City’s chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. “There’s a range of things social workers can do. One is to de-escalate, to engage, to be able to talk about what the options are.”

Schachter said social workers are very familiar with being in dangerous situations, often without any backup. If the police department decides to commit to this kind of program, he said, “it could be done. It could be done very skillfully and very, very well.”

Dr. George Patterson, a former social worker and employee with the Rochester Police Department, said the city offers a unique mix of people in need, making a potential police/social worker pairing helpful, but also potentially volatile.

“I think the model is doable, but I think it will take some brainstorming on the part of police and on the part of social workers,” said Patterson, who now works as a professor in the school of social work at CUNY Hunter. “I think that New York, the level of impatience, is very different here.”

In Rochester, Patterson said social workers weren’t paired with officers. Rather, they would respond in an unmarked car to issues like domestic violence, child abuse situations or landlord/tenant problems. But the officer would always go first.

“What it would do is free police officers up so they could do police work,” he said.

Patterson has consulted on training for the NYPD and said when he brought up a similar partnership concept several of the officers seem enthused. But Patterson projects it would take a lot of effort — and maybe some pilot testing — to get it done.

“Social workers would need to be prepared to collaborate,” he said. “I think preparation on both sides is a step in the right direction. This process wouldn’t be done overnight, but it’s definitely worthwhile to explore.”

A lot of factors still have to be ironed out to put Kelling’s theory into practice. Cost is certainly one of them.
“I think that ultimately would be determined by the number of people that you have,” Kelling said. “And you’d have to have a good number.”

Portions of Felicia Dansrath’s statement at Albany Press Conference


Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — When New York City police responded to 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 so New York and other cities statewide can establish training programs to help officers assess and de-escalate confrontations with such suspects while establishing “crisis intervention teams” with mental health professionals.

“They didn’t need to shoot him,” Felicia Dasrath said last week. “It will be very difficult for the rest of my life.”

The issue was raised again this past week when The Associated Press reported that a 56-year-old mentally ill homeless man “baked to death” in a Rikers Island jail cell that was heated to at least 100 degrees. Advocates argued that the man, who was found to be sleeping in a building stairway, should have been sent for treatment rather than jailed on a trespassing charge.

“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 so-called Crisis Intervention Team model is already used in some form by 2,700 other jurisdictions nationwide, including in Los Angeles, when that police department was headed by current NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

The NYPD said in a statement it would review any program that might help the public, adding that its officers are trained throughout their careers in how to recognize and react to emotionally disturbed people.

Last year, officers responded to nearly 121,000 calls of an emotionally disturbed person who might have been a threat to themselves or others — and through March 19 of this year had already responded to 26,787 such calls, an increase of more than 5 percent from this time last year.

“The department will be assessing several crisis intervention models that range from responding to persons with substance abuse, non-residency and mental illness,” the statement said.

The training was credited with reducing the use of force on disturbed individuals to 2 percent of the most violent cases in Los Angeles in 2012, said Carla Rabinowitz, an organizer for the nonprofit Community Access in New York City. She listed a half-dozen other mentally ill suspects who died in the past few years in encounters with New York City police.

“This campaign is not anti-police,” Rabinowitz said. “What we want to do is create a model that gives the police the tools they need to respond to these crisis encounters.”

Roughly 10 percent of calls to medium and large police departments involve someone with mental illness and often take more time to resolve than routine calls, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Community Mental Health. “Our findings suggest that Community Intervention Team training influences the ability of police officers to resolve encounters … using force less frequently and to appropriately link these individuals with services rather than unnecessarily arresting them.”

The program offers guidance for 911 dispatchers on gathering information on known psychological and addiction problems and 40 hours of training for patrol officers on such topics as maintaining a safety zone while assessing the situation and avoiding the temptation to immediately answer a crisis with force.

Most officers with extra training in the 2010 study reported their most helpful response tactic was talking to the person. The study also found the training helped resolve more encounters without force and sent more troubled individuals to psychiatric and social services instead of jail.

“We’re four times as likely to die in encounters with police,” said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. Meanwhile, the incarceration rate and suicide rate in prison have been rising over the past decade, he said.

Parker said the request for $2 million to help train officials in handling the mentally ill is practically nothing in a $142 billion state budget. Advocates said the money could be used to establish the best practices and grants that jurisdictions could use to implement them.

Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.

Speech of Suzanne Lafont from February 2014 CCIT NYC Press Conference


Hello. My name is Suzanne LaFont. I am a mother, a wife and a professor of anthropology at the City University of New York.
I am here today to show my support for Communities for Crisis Intervention Teams in NYC (CCIT) and the Crisis Invention Act which will reform the way the NYPD responds to medical emergencies.

The other night on the John Steward show, Mayor de Blasio spoke about the police and the community coming together. A bill has been introduced to assist in that mission. In order for there to be good relations between communities and the police force, there needs to be trust and the belief that when called, the police will respond with what they call CPR – Courtesy, Professionalism, and Respect.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’

I have decided not to be silent about “things that matter” because my personal experience provides an example of what can happen when the police respond to a situation without the necessary knowledge and training.

On April 5, 2013, my husband, Anders Peltomaa who suffers from a hereditary condition called Marfan Syndrome, had open-heart surgery. He was released from the hospital on April 10th. The following evening, Anders started to become disoriented. I called 911, informing the operator that Anders had Marfans, had just had open-heart surgery and that he seemed to be having a reaction to his medication.

A few minutes later the NYPD, the NYFD, and EMT showed up. The police were the first to come through the door. I wanted to be sure that the responders knew about my husband’s medical condition so I stepped out on our landing, repeating the fact that my husband had undergone open-heart surgery less than a week ago. Anders, who is 5’ 10” and weighs 140 lbs, came up behind me. He was not armed; he made no threats and did not advance towards the officers.

The lead Officer responding to the call, Anthony Giambra (who is about 6’ 2’ and 220 lbs), immediately said, “Cuff him.” He then pressed Anders against the wall, directly on his surgical wound. Alarmed by the turn of events and worried for my husband’s life, I placed my hand on the officer’s shoulder, pleading with them to treat him with care. He immediately turned to me and said, “You are under arrest.” I was cuffed and led inside our apartment to get my ID. Moments later when the officer led me back into the hallway, I saw Anders lying face down in a pool of blood. He was still cuffed when they flipped him over and dragged him out of the building by his clothing. As they put him in the ambulance, he repeatedly called for me. However, I was already in the police car and unable to respond or comfort him. That is the last I saw of my husband for next 19 hours.

Although I stated in the 911 call that my husband did not have a history of mental illness, the police deemed him to be an “emotionally disturbed person.” This catchall label is made by police without proper training. Anyone who the police determine is acting in a “not normal” way can be labelled as an EDP. Determining what is “not normal” is highly subjective. For me, “not normal” is calling 911 for an ambulance and then experiencing the trauma of having your husband beaten and being arrested. During the encounter I have described Anders sustained an injury to his chin which required 5 stitches, a dislocated thumb, bruises on the his wrists, sides, knees, and back. He spent two days in the hospital.

I was taken to the 20th precinct where Giambra said that he arrested me because he had to “teach” me that “you can NEVER touch a police officer.” I could not imagine that anyone would think that this was a “teachable” moment.

While fingerprinting me he claimed that restraint was always best. He further revealed his lack of knowledge by noting, “Your husband is going to be fine; he’ll be home before you.” How could anyone think that an open-heart surgery patient who had been throw so hard on the ground as to split open his chin would “be fine?” In fact, many heart patients are given blood thinners. Fortunately, Anders was not on them. We were informed by a health care professional that he could have bled out from his chin injury if he had been on the thinners.

Then he would have become just another statistic, like the statistics we have heard/will hear about today – an unnecessary fatality due to the police’s lack of understanding, knowledge and training.

As for me: I was offered a plea which involved sealing the case after 6 months if I had no further arrests. Most people accept such pleas to make their cases go away. Many do not have the time or money for the legal fees necessary to fight. However, after 9 months and 8 court appearances, the case against me was dismissed “in the furtherance of justice.” The judge in his response to my lawyer’s motion to dismiss noted that, “the police had mishandled a call to a medical emergency and ended up injuring an already sick man.”

I support the movement of CCIT NYC to convince Mayor de Blasio to empanel a group of stakeholders to create a formal CIT model in NYC that would put an end to tragedies like what happened to my family and so many others.

The police should be here to protect all of us. We should never have to feel that we need to protect our loved ones from the police. I hope that I never have to call 911 again. Frankly, I am afraid to do so.

Everyone one of us needs to be able to know that a call to 911 will be responded to by trained professionals who will treat us and our loved ones with the care and compassion we need and deserve.
Thank you.

rexford dasrath

By Carla Rabinowitz, Project Coordinator

Rexford Dasrath died in a NYC police encounter in November 2013.  He was only 22 years old. The death occurred on 902 Hart Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Young Mr. Dasrath had a history of mental health concerns and was on medication.

Prior to November  18, Mr. Dasrath had had several other encounters with the police. In these encounters, he had engaged in behavior indicative of a person under acute emotional distress.

We have not forgotten Mr. Dasrath, nor the many other mental health recipients who have to navigate a police force not adequately trained to respond to their unique behavior.

Nor do we forget how traumatic the experience was for the police officers who killed Mr. Dasrath because they did not have the proper training to de-escalate the situation.

Mental health recipients and the NYPD alike have suffered unnecessarily for too long. It is high time for Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton to implement a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model in NYC. CITs prepare the police to recognize and respond to emotionally disturbed person calls and ensure that professional mental health providers are readily available. They are the ONLY WAY to minimize these tragedies.

i want to be heard

Statement By Christina Sparrock CPA, CFE

As a professional woman living with bipolar disorder and severe anxiety, I know first- hand how it feels to be mistreated, dismissed, humiliated and made to feel less worthy. I never chose to have this illness and wouldn’t wish this on my enemy. The fact is that 1 out 4 people suffer from mental illness, an illness that does not discriminate based on age, sex or race. So therefore, a judge, bus driver, politician , mother, doctor or a POLICE OFFICER can be diagnosed with some sort of mental condition. It is a disease of an organ, so happens it is my brain, not my liver or kidney.

What compelled me to become an active participant in CCIT was due to my negative experience with the NYPD in March 2012. During that period, I was assaulted in my bedroom by an emotional disturbed woman, who I did not strike at any time. For fear of my life, I called 911 hysterically crying and begged them to rescue me. Knowing that this woman had a history of violence, I was extremely scared. By the time the police arrived, the woman fled the scene of the crime and her husband threatened me. Once I mentioned that I placed the 911 call and was bipolar, the police immediately refused to take my complaint of assault and harassment. In addition, they refused to examine the crime scene and the destruction caused by the emotionally disturbed woman. To add insult to injury, the husband denied everything, including his threats and the police believed him. In the end, the police concluded that I made the entire incident up. Why wouldn’t the police HEAR MY VOICE?

When Carla Rabinowitz introduced me to CCIT, I immediately wanted to become an active member. I assisted with the scheduling of meetings with politicians, volunteering nights and weekends researching other successful CIT in other states, and speaking with other CIT leaders in our nation. Overall , I believe this program is worth exploring in NYC and I am confident that with a supportive mayor and police commissioner, it would work.

Outside of working as a CPA and CFE, I do public speaking to educate and bring awareness to people and to inspire and provide hope to people living with mental illness. And I support a CIT for New York City.

STATEMENT From Rights of Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities

The members of RIPPD have been strong supporters of Community Crisis Intervention teams for many years. Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities (RIPPD) is a grass roots, direct action organization, united to demand justice and social change in particular for those who have been in jail or prison who have suffered from the unjust criminal justice system.

CCIT has been a focus for RIPPD’s advocacy agenda. We have campaigned endlessly for CCIT. For years RIPPD has been in the fore front in advocating for CCIT to be part of the NYPD’s response to 911 calls for people who are in emotional crisis. We ran a strong campaign holding meetings with precinct captains and community liaisons and the administration at 1 Police Plaza. We held protests and rallies to make the public aware of the consequences that occur when the police are not trained to deal with a crisis situation. We have been relentless in demanding that CCIT become part of the NYPD because we as family members and consumers experience firsthand the horrible consequences that occur when untrained NYPD officers answer a 911 call. Not only don’t the responders know how to deescalate a situation which results in death but their lack of training provokes violence and physical harm to those involved which often results in people going to jail, the least appropriate place for a person in crisis.

Now with the new Coalition we are finally at a place where we have a chance to change the negative responses to 911 calls to positive responses. The NYC mental health community is ready and willing to partner with the NYPD to bring about this change. Cities all over the country have established CCIT and the result has reduced harm to both the police officer and the community. It is time for New York City to get on board. NYPD needs to catch up with the rest of the nation and make CCIT part of the NYPD.

my uncle

By Eric Munoz, Service Coordinator, Community Access

I prepared the following statement for the 9/25 CCIT Press Conference at City Hall. When asked to reproduce it here for this website, I was glad to. This is a cause very close to my heart.

Caring, selfless, and talented: these are the qualities that stood out to me about my family member Samuel Cruz. I recall first meeting Sammy at Thanksgiving dinner, November 2012. Sammy at first appeared to be shy meeting his other family for the first time. But as we all began to break bread together, Sammy with great comfort began to share his passion about life and his successes. Sammy and my aunt met in Puerto Rico during their college years while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in art. He expressed happiness in being able to share his art talent with others.

I was devastated to hear about his death.

I was angry, but also more disappointed in law officials for the approach they took which resulted in Sammy’s passing. I imagined the events unfolding with the police breaking into his house, his sanctuary, tasered him, and when the taser failed to immobilize him, they shot him because he responded in self-defense as he felt attacked. Law enforcement must first let go of what they believe they know about, not the mental health population, but the misunderstood, and become more educated on what they need know. The police are here to serve people of all classes, but they will only be successful in effective policing if they let go of their aggressive approaches, and approach the people with understanding. This understanding of people with mental health concerns can only be achieved through a comprehensive Crisis Intervention Team model.

In closing, I stand before you today not only as an employee of Community Access, but as a resident of New York City; as I learned, just like in math, many times we focus too much on the problem rather than working on the solution, and the solution here is to create a Crisis Intervention Team.

One Response to Blog

  1. Our governments have abandoned our most traumatized and vulnerable people and we the people have let it happen. This is the price we pay for greed and indifference.

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