Assemblyman calls for mental testing for NYC cops
NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 1/10/2013, 1:07 p.m.
"I'm doing Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly a favor. Psychological testing will save the [Police] Department a lot of money and might save our children from being killed or beaten," said Assemblyman Eric A. Stevenson. The latest incidents involving cops shooting an unarmed teen and beating another have pushed Stevenson to draft a bill calling for mental evaluations of NYPD officers.
As the family of Ramarley Graham--the young man who was shot to death by Richard Haste, an officer untrained for street narcotic enforcement-- contemplated yet another vigil, Stevenson spoke of the need to monitor the mental health and stability of New York City's 34,000-plus officers. "There were four suicides by police officers last month," said Stevenson. "This is about procedure, policy and psychological testing."
Last Saturday, Stevenson and Graham's parents, along with police beating victim Jateik Reed, gathered at the Union Grove Baptist Church in the Bronx for a press conference to support Legislative Bill A-9395, which would require police officers who are patrolling and safeguarding the streets to have periodic psychological evaluations.
While Stevenson proclaimed that the job of a police officer is a tough one, he added that having officers undergo a mental evaluation every three years should not be an unreasonable expectation. He noted that the NYPD requires officers to be routinely tested with regard to their proficiency with their service weapons, but as of yet there is no test to determine if they are psychologically fit to work the streets of these five boroughs.
"Some officers have addictions. It may be alcohol or drugs, and they can be mind-altering. So, when you tell one of our youth to get up against the wall and he asks why, the officer might just lose it or start beating or shooting.
"This is not a bad bill. It will save the department both embarrassment and money. We want to make sure that the police officers are sane enough to go out on the street and not kill our children."
Phyllis Claybourne, mother of Timothy Stansbury, who was gunned down by housing cop Richard S. Neri Jr. in 2004, told the AmNews, "They need to have the officers mentally evaluated every two years."
Neri approached a stairwell with his Glock 17 handgun drawn. He fired his weapon as Stansbury, on the other side of a door, pushed it open. Neri claimed that he did not recall raising and firing his weapon and therefore beat the negligent homicide charge against him. He was not indicted.
"How can you just fire your weapon and say you can't remember doing it? He killed my son. They retired Neri," said Claybourne, who works as a crossing guard out of the 79th Precinct. "He's retired, but he is alive."
On Thursday, Jan. 26, four cops were accused of abusing Reed in a "Rodney King-like beating" in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. The entire incident was caught on video camera.
After the beating of Reed, Stevenson declared, "It only makes me wonder if this is open season for eliminating minority youth. We have to stand up now and call on Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly to put a final end to the excessive police brutality on minority youth."
While Police Benevolent Association (PBA) head Patrick Lynch did not respond to an AmNews request for comment, Stevenson stated that he was disturbed by the PBA's chief disparaging the proposed bill as without merit.
"It is just arrogant for him to just shoot it down and say there's no evidence to support its need. How much evidence does he need?"
According to retired Detective Marquez Claxton of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, state and city resources would be better used to have the police commissioner, deputy commissioners and other executive managers psychologically evaluated.
Said Claxton, "They have created the atmosphere, programs and initiatives that have citizens questioning the psychological stability of police officers."
The NYPD and the mayor's office did not respond to an AmNews request for comment.