In the wake of the shootings at Newtown, the argument for increased mental health services and a regimen more tolerant of involuntary commitment briefly enjoyed a renaissance. However, until now, no city had actually gone out and tried implementing such a regimen. New York City apparently wants to be the first.
The New York Post reports on the city’s plan to create a “roundup plan” for those found to be mentally ill:
The city is making a major push to sweep the streets of dangerous, mentally ill New Yorkers — and has even compiled a most-wanted list, The Post has learned.
The measure follows a pair of high-profile subway-shove fatalities from December allegedly involving mentally ill individuals.
The city has already drawn up a list of 25 targets, sources said.[…]
Cops in the NYPD’s Real Time Crime Center are using high-tech methods to first track down the individuals, and detectives on the street have been assigned to then go after them and take them to hospitals, law-enforcement sources said.
In the past, the city Department of Health would ask cops for help finding mentally ill people who aren’t taking their court-mandated meds so they could be taken to clinics. But that only applied to those who had known addresses — and patients who went off the grid were rarely pursued, the sources said.
The city is now concerned it could be liable if one of those people goes off the rails and hurts someone — or themselves, the sources said.
And that’s prompted the Health Department to seek more help from the NYPD.
The process apparently involves the issuance of a special brand of warrant, which allows police to arrest individuals, even if those individuals are not suspects in a crime, simply for not showing up to court-ordered therapy. The process is almost certain to draw fire from civil libertarians, but given the circumstances, NYC’s government seems unlikely to relent.
The two incidents that precipitated this call for a crackdown on mental illness both involved people suffering from disorders of varying strengths pushing innocents into the paths of oncoming Subway trains. The first involved homeless man Naeem Davis, who claimed varying different motives for his act (shoving a complete stranger onto the tracks), including everything from voices in his head telling him to do it to being angry about the loss of a favorite pair of boots.
The other case has sparked a good deal more controversy. The assailant, one Erika Menendez, specifically targeted an Iranian man due to motives that could charitably be described as “misguided.” From the Daily Mail report at the time:
Menendez admitted shoving Sunando Sen, 46, in front of a Queens 7 Train Thursday, telling police, ‘I’ve hated Hindus and Muslims since 2001 since they put down the Twin Towers. I have been beating them up since.’
Hindus had no hand in the destruction of the Twin Towers.
Menendez suffers from bipolar disorder, a disorder that in the vast majority of cases does not provoke those suffering from it to commit murder. Nevertheless, her apparent bigotry combined with the disorder made a lethal mix.
One difficulty that the NYPD reportedly face in implementing the city’s new plan is the fact that many of the mentally ill — especially the homeless — do not stay in one place, but rather wander the city. This certainly was the case with Naeem Davis, and given the nature of the murders that prompted this new policy, the existence of transportation options for the mentally ill is an especially live topic.