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Queens Chronicle

Rally calls for new response to EDPs

Woman claims improper arrest, says cops not trained for mental health calls

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019 10:30 am

Peggy Herrera of Jamaica has two distinct complaints that brought her and a small group of supporters to the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct on the morning of Aug. 30.

Both, she said, are the result of a 911 call that summoned police to her home on Aug. 25 when her son was having a mental health crisis.

Herrera said her son had calmed down by the time police and EMS arrived, and fearing for how her son might be treated, she refused to open her door to responders.

She said she subsequently was arrested and her son dragged out of her apartment by his neck as she was being taken into custody.

Backed by representatives of groups such as Black Lives Matter, JustLeadershipUSA, #CLOSERikers and others, Herrera leveled accusations of abuse against specific officers from the 103rd Precinct.

But she and her supporters also called on the City Council to conduct hearings in order to establish protocols under which police are not the first responders to answer a call for an emotionally disturbed person.

“They are not trained to handle that,” she said.

Herrera is employed by the NYPD as a school crossing guard in the 103rd. She said she has never been arrested before and that she was kept in a filthy lockup for two hours with no justification.

“He told me, ‘You’re being arrested because you don’t listen,’” she said, referring to a sergeant at the scene.

She is demanding a meeting with precinct leadership, and the group representatives said they will be back at the 103rd in greater numbers should such a meeting not take place.

The precinct referred all questions to the NYPD press office. According to the press office, police arrived to find Herrera outside and her son inside, refusing to open the door; and that she “informed officers that the male inside expressed that he wanted to hurt himself earlier in the day.”

Police said officers established a dialogue with the son and summoned an Emergency Services Unit and hostage negotiation team.

They said Herrera was charged with obstructing governmental administration after the ESU team arrived and she stepped in front of the door, refusing to allow them to enter the home. Herrera said by that time her son had calmed down.

Victoria Phillips, who works with emotionally disturbed patients, said there are alternatives to police in such cases.

“People who work in homeless shelters need to deal with the same people as police,” she said. “Social workers deal with the same people. I’ve worked on a MICA (mental illness chemical addiction) ward. I was taken hostage once for two hours. Do you know how I de-escalated it? With my mouth, with my words, my training.”

Figures provided to the Chronicle by the mayor’s ThriveNYC program on Aug. 16 state that more than 8,000 NYPD officers and staff have received training in mental health first aid. Another 13,000 have gone through crisis intervention training, with the department allocating $5.3 million for additional training for the 2020 fiscal year.

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