Mental Health and Policing: Deborah Danner

On Tuesday, the NYPD shot Deborah Danner, a black disabled woman. She was 66, naked, and armed with a baseball bat. Let’s say her name. Let’s read her essay about life with schizophrenia. Police cited self-defense, but both the Mayor and the Commissioner have criticized the officer.

Both the mayor and the commissioner said the officer had failed to follow the Police Department’s protocol for dealing with an emotionally disturbed person.
“What is clear in this one instance: We failed,” Mr. O’Neill said of the shooting. Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, called it “tragic and unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, in Santa Clara, a white man in a mental health crisis wielding a metal rake was shot and killed. Officers did retreat, it was 3:30 in the morning in the pouring rain, until their backs were against their car, then they fired. His name was Sean Smith Arlt.

Meanwhile, Portland police have been quietly documenting all encounters with people they deem mentally ill, but hasn’t been telling anyone (including defense attorneys, which is probably illegal, as I understand it). I hope to get access to this data over the coming year, to the extent it’s possible.

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