Almost exactly two years later, another police shooting occurred with a striking similarity. at Cambridge. January 4th, 20-year-old Saeed Faisal was shot dead by police after officials said he brandished a knife at them. A University of Massachusetts Boston student used a knife to cut himself before approaching officers, officials said.
Both cases have rekindled calls for trained clinicians to replace armed police in mental health crises, with the aim of preventing new deaths. in a similar incident.
“Ideally, communities should have police trained when needed, and trained mental health clinicians who can assess situations in an alternative or more professional way. There are mechanisms available to work with,” said Timothy Burton, manager of the Massachusetts Psychiatric National Alliance for Criminal Justice Transformation.
Some communities in Massachusetts are already trying. In July, Amherst took the oath to the state’s first team of unarmed responders. Meanwhile, similar efforts by Cambridge and Lynn have trickled down over the past year amid heated debate over who should oversee crisis workers and how closely they should work with police.
Across states, including Boston, Lowell, and Framingham, joint responses by police and crisis responders to certain emergencies have been used, but the completely unarmed alternative has taken time to gain momentum.
Cambridge’s unarmed response team, HEART, was formed by community organizers in 2021, but efforts to partner directly with the city have stalled, meaning crisis responders only provide care before and after emergencies. Not available.They are trained in crisis intervention, but currently there is no mechanism for dispatchers to call them in a mental health emergency like Faisal. The program is funded by grants and community donations, but activists are asking the city to pay for it.
Proponents of the unarmed response say only trained clinicians have the expertise needed to mitigate precarious mental health emergencies. But skeptics point to a number of safety concerns clinicians may face.
“Nobody sends a social worker to a situation where weapons are involved,” said Mark McGovern, a Cambridge City Councilor who has worked as a social worker for decades.
McGovern called Faisal’s death “a tragedy,” but said he believed police would have been needed at the scene even if crisis responders had been called.
“People have this idea that if you de-escalate everything will be fine,” McGovern said. “Most of the time, yes. That’s why I believe it. But it doesn’t always work.”
The most-cited Massachusetts model originated in Eugene, Oregon. There is an emergency response group called Crisis Assistance Groups on the Road (CAHOOTS) that can be dispatched with the police. But unlike the joint response model widely adopted across the federation, crisis responders aren’t an “integrated” part of the police response, said CAHOOTS official Berkeley his Carnein.
“Even if you react at the same time, [crisis workers] “You guys can go,” Carnine still has the ability to decide,’ Carnine explained. ”
Carnine emphasized the critical role 911 dispatchers play in assessing the risk of danger in mental health emergencies, noting that if dispatchers are confident that weapons are already secured, or if a crisis responder Crisis responders may respond to dangerous situations if the person believes they can be placed in cooperation with that person, he said. keep weapons away.
“But if someone says they’re going to keep themselves safe and they start harming themselves right away, it’s not our role to physically restrain people. So we need to call the police.” There is,” said Carnine.
Melissa Morabito, an associate professor of criminology and judicial studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, also cited the dispatcher as a critical factor in crisis response. Dispatchers who are unfamiliar with the capabilities of trained clinicians tend to view the police as the only safe option.
“Dispatchers want to minimize damage,” she said. “So they can over-emphasize the danger and that’s the information they’re sharing with the police.”
Rather than calling for a complete replacement of the police, Instead of unarmed responders, some advocates are calling for a joint response that prioritizes better and more frequent police training in de-escalation and crisis intervention.
In Massachusetts, local police must meet statewide training standards outlined by the City Police Training Commission. However, according to Cambridge Police spokesman Jeremy Warnick, it is up to individual departments to decide whether to provide additional training.
Warnick said Cambridge police can take up to four types of training in de-escalation and firearm use, in addition to trauma-informed training and crisis intervention training (CIT). Since 2014, officers have been on CIT offered by the National Psychiatric Association, Warnick said.
Warnick declined to say whether the officer who shot Faisal had CIT training.
Since Conlon’s death in Newton two years ago, police spokeswoman Lieutenant Amanda Hendrickson said the department has joined the One Mind campaign launched by the International Association of Police Chiefs. Participating departments should train at least 20% of their officers in her CIT and the remaining 80% in mental health first aid.
One-third of Newton’s officers have completed the CIT, and Hendrickson said, “Our hope is that all officers will have training to give them a sense of what a human being might be experiencing.” It is to make it understandable on a level.”
But for the families of those killed at the hands of police, no amount of training can replace unarmed mental health professionals.
“I don’t think the police should be responding to mental health calls,” Betsy Conlon said. I need someone who has.”
Experts focus on minimizing interactions between people suffering from mental health conditions and law enforcement agencies by addressing individual needs before the situation reaches a crisis point. I agree that it is necessary to
UMass Lowell Professor Moravito said, “It would be wrong to rely solely on the police for all of us, rather than making other services available before there is nothing left to do but call 911.” I think.
Despite urgent demands from advocates, the transition to a city-funded Cambridge autonomous unarmed response team could progress a few steps at a time. Mr Wernick said Cambridge Police supported a different response, “with the understanding that it may not be applicable in every situation”.
Faisal’s death in Cambridge is under investigation. Meanwhile, a court hearing ruled that Newton officers were not criminally responsible for Michael Conlon’s death, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced in May 2022. — the day after Faisal was killed.
Betsy Conlon is The lawsuit will put pressure on local authorities across the state to radically change who responds to calls for people struggling with mental health issues.
“Any time [I] Hearing a shooting with someone having a mental health crisis brings it all back,” she said. You shouldn’t.”
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