Parents of Mohamed Bah, Saheed Vassell & Advocates Testify Against City Council Mental Health Response Bill That Would Create Permanent NYPD Role in Mental Health While Failing to Address Underlying Racial Disparities in Mental Health Care
Today, parents whose children were killed by the NYPD, and Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) members and partners, testified against Intro 2210, a City Council bill that would create a new citywide emergency mental health response, but codifies a permanent and expansive role for police at a time when New Yorkers have been calling for removal of police from mental health response and a reduction in the NYPD’s bloated budget, power, size, and scope.
"We commend the Council for acknowledging that the role of police should be reduced in mental health response, but are opposing this bill because it fails to achieve that goal, dangerously codifies a permanent role for the NYPD in situations where they should have no role, and it will take years to undo the damage,” said Anthonine Pierre, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. “CPR and our partners have been calling for removal of police from mental health response for years because regardless of training, police regularly create and escalate emergency situations when interacting with people with psychiatric disabilities and/or those in emotional distress or crisis – as we’ve seen in the killings of Iman Morales, Mohamed Bah, Saheed Vassell, Kawaski Trawick, and too many others. Creating a mental health protocol without also addressing the profound and systemic gaps in mental health care options for Black, Latinx, and other communities of color – and protecting and formalizing a role for the NYPD – is a recipe for disaster and promises to exacerbate pre-existing racial disparities in mental health, criminalization, and police violence against communities of color. The bill fundamentally fails to recognize the already outsized power of the NYPD and how that will be operationalized and expanded in mental health response. Intro 2210 is like throwing paint on a car with a faulty engine and no breaks – shiny but fatally dangerous. We hope to work with the Council on a better approach.”
“On September 25, 2012, I called 911, but the NYPD came first,” said Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah, who was killed by NYPD Emergency Service Unit officers in 2012. “They forced their way into my son’s home even though I begged them not to. They shot him eight times and killed him execution-style – and then they lied about what happened afterward. Since 2012 I have been fighting for Mohamed and to prevent more of our children from being killed by police. Today I am here to say Intro 2210 will not save the lives of people like my son, Mohamed Bah and that Mateo & Licitra should be fired. I want to make sure any bill that wants to solve the problem does that – but Intro 2210 creates problems instead of solving them. I pray that you will listen to me and other families and that you will oppose Intro 2210.”
“Officers who killed our children are still NYPD, they have still not been fired years later,” said Eric Vassell, father of Saheed Vassell who was killed by NYPD Strategic Response Group officers in 2018. “We fight not only for our children but also to prevent more police killings in our communities. I’m here today to oppose bill #2210. The topic of this bill is very close to my heart because Saheed struggled with mental health issues. I appreciate that the City Council is thinking about this issue, but I want to make clear that this bill would not have saved Saheed’s life. Saheed would still have been killed. I want to work with you and fight for a bill that will prevent more Saheeds from being killed and Intro 2210 does not do that.”
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 reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing 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 most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.