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Hawa Bah & Advocates Slam de Blasio’s Doubling Down on NYPD Involvement in Mental Health Response

New York, NY - Hawa Bah, the mother of Mohamed Bah, and other advocates react to news that Mayor de Blasio’s Task Force on Crisis Prevention & Response will continue police response to mental health situations. According to reporting by The City, a core part of the Mayor’s plan includes creation of “co-response” teams to add mental health workers when NYPD responds to mental health calls – at a time when localities around the country, like Denver, are removing police from responding to mental health crises. 

Hawa Bah, the mother of Mohamed Bah recently issued a call to remove police from responding to individuals in emotional distress. Mohamed was killed by NYPD officers in his home in 2012, after his mother called 911 for medical attention. Upon hearing of reporting on the Mayor’s proposed plan, Hawa Bah issued the following statement:

"It has been more than 7 years since Mohamed was murdered in his home by NYPD," said Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah. "I have been calling for the removal of police from responding to mental health crises. The Mayor's recommendations are insulting to me and others who have lost our children to police escalation and violence when we called for medical help. Everyone should criticize the Mayor for again failing New Yorkers." 

Advocates joined Hawa Bah in criticizing the Mayor’s plan, including a member of his Crisis Prevention & Response Task Force:

"As a member of the Mayor's Task Force and as someone who has asked for information about the delayed report without response, I was surprised to learn from media that the report would be released today without consulting with the Task Force on final recommendations," said Mark Winston Griffith, Executive Director of Brooklyn Movement Center and a member of the Mayor's Crisis Prevention & Response Task Force. "It's even more alarming to learn that the report includes recommendations to further embed police response to individuals who are experiencing mental health distress or crisis - make no mistake, including mental health workers on an NYPD-run team is not the right approach for NYC and only serves to further institutionalize unnecessary police responses that will escalate incidents." 

Other Communities United for Police Reform members also slammed the Mayor for doubling down on NYPD involvement in responding to individuals experiencing emotional distress and crisis:

“Cities across the country are looking at ways to remove police from responding to situations where people are in emotional distress,” said Ileana Méndez-Peñate, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform (CPR). “It’s shameful that instead of leading, New York City is trailing behind other cities by doubling down on outdated and misguided police-involved approaches to mental health crises. People in emotional distress account for 25% - 50% of all individuals killed by police across the country – and in NYC, NYPD killings of individuals in emotional distress or with psychiatric disabilities include Mohamed Bah, Deborah Danner, Saheed Vassell, Ariel Galarza, Dwayne Jeune and too many others. Instead of tweaking and re-institutionalizing police response, we should be ending the role of police in mental health responses and moving those resources into robust community-based and citywide public health infrastructure.”

“Simply the presence of armed, uniformed police officers can easily scare people who are already in distress and escalate the situation and, as a recent DOH study shows, interactions with police and the criminal justice system negatively impacts mental health," said Simone Gamble, representative of the Justice Committee. "Given this, removing police completely as first responders to those experiencing mental health crisis is the only logical solution to ending police violence and killings in these situations. We need real investment in our communities that have traditionally been marginalized; accessible, culturally intelligent preventative care services; and a crisis response system that prioritizes dignity, safety, and self-determination for those who are experiencing emotional distress or suffering from mental illness or psychological disability.”

"NYPD should not be responding to mental health crises, period. Whether or not they have a mental health professional in tow is besides the point. Instead of trying to shoehorn police into a role for addressing every single social issue, we should be cutting the headcount and hiring people who can appropriately respond to people's acute mental health needs," said Nick Encalada-Malinowski with VOCAL-NY. 

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About Communities United for Police Reform

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.

CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.

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