Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old Black woman suffering from schizophrenia, was fatally shot to death in her apartment by NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry on Oct 18 after she had allegedly brandished a baseball bat. NYPD officers were familiar with her mental health history and had been called to her place of residence in the past.
Barry was stripped of his badge and gun and placed on modified duty. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. issued statements strongly condemning Barry’s actions.
“Deborah Danner, 66 years old, and known to the NYPD as someone who suffered from mental illness, and the shooting of Deborah Danner is tragic and it is unacceptable” – Bill de Blasio
“We do have policies and procedures for handling emotionally disturbed people, and it looks like that some of those procedures weren’t followed.” – James P. O’Neill
“This elderly woman was known to the police department, yet the officer involved in this shooting failed to use discretion to either talk her down from her episode or, barring that, to use his stun gun.” – Ruben Diaz Jr.
NYPD union leaders have come out against the mayor and commissioner, citing political reasons and one test question in which a similar situation is presented. An NYPD spokesman said Barry was modified because he “failed to follow proper procedures and tactics in dealing with a mentally ill person.”
There were protests on Wednesday as several dozen people began a march from the Castle Hill neighborhood to a nearby police station. Protestors carried signs reading “Justice for Deborah Danner” and “Stop Police Terror.”
Deborah Danner had written a 6-page essay titled “Living with Schizophrenia,” which was given to the New York Times by her lawyer and published in full.
“We are all aware of headline news stories about persons with serious mental illness who commit horrendous acts of violence-a minority of the mentally ill. We are all aware of the all too frequent news stories about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement instead of mental health professionals and end up dead.” – Deborah Danner
In 2015, the Treatment Advocacy Center completed a study that estimated that a person with untreated mental illness was 16 times more likely to be killed by police officers. This year alone, up to a quarter of all officer-involved shootings could involve people in a mental health crisis.
There is a real problem when police are called to deal with mental health emergencies, instead of mental health professionals. Prison is the #1 provider of mental healthcare in the US, and 25% of the US population has suffered at one point from mental illness. This is a problem that the criminal justice system is not equipped to deal with.
Title Contribution: Raven Payne