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Police are still the most qualified first responders for mental illness

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Police are still the most qualified first responders for mental illness

Next year, Americans will start hearing a great deal about 988, a new alternative to 911 for “Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.” 

Its purpose: to isolate such cases so that they can be responded to in a more specialized fashion — with social workers and, in some cases, specially trained cops, as opposed to just a random officer who happens to be closest to the emergency. Advocates believe that the new system may lead to fewer mental health-related shootings by police and less involvement of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system. 

But after 30 years of experience with enhanced police training in techniques such as de-escalation, cities remain uncertain about what works, and to what degree. We should not expect social services providers, who don’t always garner much respect from the population they’re trying to help, to perform miracles on the street. 

Mental health emergencies are estimated to make up anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of police calls for service. Sending out police to respond to such calls is often said to be wasteful and dangerous. In the United States, 200 to 250 fatal police shootings that are in some way mental health-related happen each year. Fatal police shootings of mentally ill people are tragic but rare. Spread across a nation of nearly 20,000 law enforcement agencies, 200 to 250 incidents annually translates to very few per jurisdiction per year, even in big cities — and, in most places, zero. The rarity of fatal shootings of mentally ill people explains much of why we know so little about how to stop them. 

Mental health emergencies are estimated to make up anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of police calls.
William Miller

Pushes to reform response protocols are heavily premised on the idea that police are prejudiced toward mentally ill people — they think they’re violent, when they’re not. So cities have cops take time off from their patrol duties to listen to mental health professionals give lectures about anxiety, PTSD, personality disorders, and “stigma.” But being force-fed lessons about how most mentally ill people aren’t violent serves as poor preparation for how to handle mentally ill people who demonstrably are violent. Between January 2015 and June 2021, the Washington Post documented 1,474 fatal police shootings that were somehow mental health-related. In 916 of those cases (62 percent), the victim was attacking someone and was usually armed with a gun or knife. 

The essence of alternative response protocols is persuasion. Advocates want to see cops resort less to force when handling tense situations. The situations in which persuasion will be most effective are those least likely to result in tragedy. Conversely, there could scarcely be worse conditions for persuasion than situations involving a man with untreated psychosis armed with a knife and charging at a cop. Anti-police activists heap scorn on the quality of the average officer, while also promoting a superhero conception of policing that implies near-magical powers of persuasion. 

Advocates for social worker intervention want to see cops resort less to force when handling tense situations.
Advocates for social worker intervention want to see cops resort less to force when handling tense situations.
Robert Mecea

Nor should we expect that social services personnel, in dangerous situations, will excel at persuasion. Police-defunding advocates exaggerate the degree to which mentally ill people like social services personnel, who are often seen, by the population they’re employed to help, as paternalistic and unreliable. Advocates also expect too much from “peers” — people who have overcome their mental illness and are now employed to help others do the same. It’s presumptuous to believe that someone with one kind of experience of mental illness will possess special influence over someone with an entirely different experience and whom he has only just met at a crisis scene. The appeal of social workers and peers, as response team members, is mainly negative: They are not armed and not authorized to arrest. 

Knowledge is power in fast-moving crisis situations. The most valuable form of knowledge may simply be that of a community and its members, which is not gained through listening to lectures about stigma but through experience: walking a beat or responding to hundreds of calls on patrol, attending barbecues, and so on. Giving cops knowledge of the community requires a serious commitment on the part of governments because experience is an expensive mode of instruction. “Community policing,” rightly understood, is labor-intensive. 

Some research suggests that more than 90 percent of patrol officers have had encounters with mentally ill people. What percentage of the general population has substantial experience with people with mental illness, especially the particularly disturbing psychotic variety? What percentage of “mental health professionals” has substantial experience with people with untreated psychosis and violent tendencies? 

In the US, 200 to 250 fatal police shootings that are in some way mental-health-related happen each year.
In the US, 200 to 250 fatal police shootings that are in some way mental health-related happen each year.
DANIEL WILLIAM MCKNIGHT

We will always need cops to be involved in responses to mental health emergencies. Transportation alone guarantees it. Helping someone in crisis often entails taking him to another location, such as a jail, hospital, or crisis stabilization facility. That will often require the assistance of police. We could instead hire entirely separate and new teams of “crisis transport security officers,” but if we did that right, they’d resemble cops in many ways. Social workers sometimes welcome the presence of cops on the scene of crises because not having to worry about their personal security helps them focus on their particular expertise. 

Cops, for their part, would just as soon not have to deal with mental health emergencies. But it’s not true to say that they’re unqualified to do so. Police have a great deal of hard-won knowledge about the nature of untreated mental illness that they can usefully bring to bear to resolve particular crises, or as contributions to the broader debate over mental health policy reform. Mental health emergencies are too important to be left to the experts. 

Stephen Eide is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal, from which this article was adapted. 

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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