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One State’s Effort to Prevent Certain Encounters with Police from Turning Deadly

“One of the goals of this is to tone it all down,” said Dana Melici, director of psychiatric emergency services at Trinitas Regional Medical Center, one of nearly a dozen health care organizations. who will provide mental health screening workers for the program.

Cases involving people with mental health emergencies are among the most volatile types of police calls in New Jersey, accounting for about half of all reported use-of-force incidents statewide, according to data retained by the Attorney General’s office.

The results can be deadly.

In July 2021, the wife of Gulia Dale, a retired Army major, called 911 to report that he was acting erratically, explaining that he was battling post-traumatic stress disorder and that he had a gun. Within 15 seconds of arriving at his home in Newton, NJ, police had shot him, saying he had reached his vehicle for a weapon.

In May 2020, two days before Mr. Floyd died in Minneapolis, a white New Jersey State Police trooper shot and killed Maurice Gordon, a 28-year-old black man spotted driving 110 miles east. hour. His friend had called 911 to report that Mr Gordon seemed agitated and was talking about a “paranormal experience”.

New Jersey is not alone in its approach. Many cities, including New York, Albuquerque and, in perhaps the oldest example, Eugene, Oregon, deploy social workers and doctors to respond to 911 calls for mental health emergencies.

New Jersey officials hope the state’s relatively small size and density will make it easier to replicate the model statewide and eventually expand crew availability beyond the current three-day-a-week schedule. .

Officer Jessica Cambronero, 33, drove with an on-call mental health screening officer in Roselle Park, where she works, and the nearby towns of Elizabeth and Linden for about two months.

nytimes Gt

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