Monday, June 18, 2018

Nine Dead in Two Years in NYC and No One is Listening

Nine Dead in Two Years in NYC and No One is Listening 
By Carla Rabinowitz, Advocacy Coordinator, Community Access, Project Coordinator, Communities for Crisis Intervention Teams in NYC (CCINYC)
The Mental Health Community Demands Change

On Friday, February 23rd, 2018, dozens of community members gathered to mourn the lives of people lost in NYPD encounters in the last two and a half years.

At the memorial, we talked about the need to get the newly trained Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officers to the scene of crisis calls.

We talked about the need for Mayor de Blasio to revive an old 2014 Taskforce to come up with other alternatives to police responding to these calls. Whether it is diverting calls to social workers or therapists to meet police on the scene, or trained peers responding in the community. We need alternatives to police responding to crisis calls.

But mainly it was a day for family, friends, and the community to mourn our nine losses.

We read the names of each life lost, and after each name was read, we popped a black balloon to signify their death.

Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access, implored the Mayor to revive the Taskforce, get all the experts in the room to figure out what is working, what is not working, and to fix this.

Below is my speech in full. At the memorial we spoke, and here we print the names of our community members so that we can remember them:

“Mario Ocasio was killed June, 2016. He was 51 years old. Mario was an uncle and a boyfriend. Mario, you are missed.

“Rashan Lloyd was killed June, 2016. Rashan was only 25 years of age when he died. Rashan was a construction worker and Rashan was raising his 4-year-old son. Rashan you are missed.

“Deborah Danner was killed in October, 2016. Deborah was well known in both the mental health and faith communities. Deborah was a regular member of Fountain House, a clubhouse in NYC. And Deborah was a long timelong-time member of Trinity Church. She participated in the poetry and knitting groups. Deborah predicted her own death at the hands of police on a blog she wrote. Deborah you are missed.

“Dwayne Jeune was killed July, 2017. Dwayne was a Caribbean immigrant. He died at 32 years of age. Dwayne was a devoted son, who often helped his mother with groceries and could sometimes be found dancing in front of a mirror in the hallway outside his apartment. Dwayne’s cousin said Dwayne was a soft-spoken, mild-mannered person who never bothered anyone. Mr. Jeune you are missed.

“Ariel Galarza was killed November 2016 when police mistook a hot sauce bottle for a knife. He was 49-years-old when he was killed. Ariel was described as a peaceful, hardworking man. Ariel was a role model for his nephews and loved dearly by his little sister. Ariel you are missed.

“Andy Sookdeo died in August 2017. He was only 29 years old. Andy took his own life when confronted with police. Andy had been a school bus driver before things fell apart. Not only did Andy die in this encounter, but police were injured as well. Andy, you are missed. 

“Miguel Richards was killed in September, 2017. Miguel was a college student from Jamaica living in NYC in an exchange program. He died at 31 years of age. Miguel was an IT expert with a bright future. Police had 17 minutes to talk Miguel down using de-escalation skills, but instead they just shouted commands at him, telling him they would shoot him if he did not comply. Maybe that’s what Miguel wanted at that moment. Miguel you are missed.

“Cornell Lockhart was killed in November, 2017. He was 67-years-old when he died. Lockhart had lived in a supportive housing residence for six years before his death. When police shot him, Cornell’s arms were down at his side and his back was against a wall. Cornell you are missed.

Dwayne Pritchett was killed in January, 2018. Dwayne was 48 years of age at his death. Dwayne was a barber. He was raising his 3-year-old son with his female partner., but left to live with his father about a week before his death. Mr. Pritchett you are missed.

Let these lives lost not be in vein. Let’s strengthen our resolve to continue the work to find new solutions to crisis calls that so many people in the mental health community face.

We demand the Mayor revive his Taskforce to find non-police responses to crisis calls before one more life is lost.

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