After de Blasio promised mental health/law enforcement reforms, NYPD shoot, kill man with history of emotional issues

By LOUIS FLORES

One day after The New York Daily News reported that on-duty officers from the New York Police Department have killed 179 people in the last 15 years, an NYPD officer killed another person today, when Calvin Peters, age 49, was shot dead by police in a confrontation at a synagogue of the Chabad-Lubavitch community in Brooklyn.

The shooting death of Mr. Peters, reported about by DNAinfo, followed Mr. Peters' stabbing attack of Levi Rosenblat, a 22-year-old Israeli student.

In law enforcement reforms announced last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York) said that the NYPD would make changes in training and protocol to decrease the number of people with mental health needs getting caught up in the NYPD's dragnet approach to over-policing of certain communities.  A criticism made of the city's Department of Corrections is that people with mental health needs are arrested over and over again, returning through a seemingly revolving door into the city's jails.  In announcing some reforms, Mayor de Blasio promised that the NYPD would stop treating behavioral illness as a reason to arrest and detain people in the city's oppressive criminal justice system.  

Mayor de Blasio's press office was contacted with a series of questions by Progress Queens, including asking about the lack of diversion tactics by police that could have treated Mr. Peters as someone, who may have needed mental healthcare, instead of treating him as someone, who needed to be shot and killed.  However, in keeping with the custom of City Hall's press office, the mayor's representatives did not answer direct questions.  Instead, the mayor issued a general statement. 

Mayor de Blasio praised the NYPD for showing restraint for not having killed others, besides Mr. Peters, saying of the NYPD, in part, in his statement that, "They responded quickly to a tense and dangerous situation, and while any loss of life is tragic, we are fortunate that, thanks to the actions of our officers early this morning, more people were not injured or worse. "

On social media, the reaction was mixed, ranging from incredulity that on-duty police managed to kill still yet another person, to efforts to raise awareness of the need for more mental healthcare resources, to smugness by some politicians, who are defenders of controversial over-policing methods by the NYPD that have, in recent years, triggered class action federal constitutional rights lawsuits and court-appointed monitors.  

Indeed, the law enforcement reforms announced last month by Mayor de Blasio followed a stinging investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district, which found a series of violations of civil rights, constitutional rights, and civil liberties of inmates at the city's Rikers Island jail complex.

One of the paltry reforms announced last month by Mayor de Blasio was the allocation of $32.5 million to fund mental health and anti-violence efforts to address complaints that the city was, amongst other violations, breeching the rights, safety, and well-being of adolescents with mental healthcare needs.  Last month, the mayor promised to deal with mental healthcare issues "at their root," but Mr. Peters' shooting death Tuesday showed that the de Blasio administration's law enforcement reforms are not enough to save the lives of people being taken into police custody.  

Last September, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara threatened to sue New York City government in federal court if the de Blasio administration did not make recommended reforms to law enforcement, including dealing with inmates with mental health needs at Rikers Island, the city's largest jail complex.

"[W]e stand ready to take legal action to compel long-overdue reforms at Rikers, if that becomes necessary to get the job done," U.S. Attorney Bharara said, in part, in a statement.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was interviewed by TV reporters about today's shooting death of Calvin Peters, a man described to have lived with mental health needs.  Mayor Bill de Blasio made promises last month that the city's law enforcement would stop treating people with emotional or mental health needs with medical care instead of treating them as criminals.  Source :  NY1 News Screen Shot

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was interviewed by TV reporters about today's shooting death of Calvin Peters, a man described to have lived with mental health needs.  Mayor Bill de Blasio made promises last month that the city's law enforcement would stop treating people with emotional or mental health needs with medical care instead of treating them as criminals.  Source :  NY1 News Screen Shot

Separately, a decades-long spree of hospital closings has decimated public healthcare resources to treat people in need of emotional or mental healthcare.  Under the de Blasio administration, controversial hospital closures have continued, with the shuttering earlier this year of Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, facing calls for his resignation over the NYPD's violent pattern of killing unarmed Black men, tried to contain the fall-out from still yet another on-duty police shooting, saying, in part, "The Hate Crimes unit is a part of the investigation and they will help to determine if that was an element of the motive of this individual," according to a report broadcast by NY1 News.  By framing Mr. Peters' attack as a possible hate crime, the police commissioner was able to shift focus away from the growing number of police interactions that result in deaths.

For weeks, police reform activists have been staging large-scale protests across New York City, demanding a fundamental overhaul of policing and law enforcement that go further than demands made by U.S. Attorney Bharara.  It wasn't yet clear if activists would seize on Mr. Peters' death as a renewed call-to-action to further press for Commissioner Bratton's ouster for for still yet unannounced other demands for reform, for example.