Why wasn’t the Person in Crisis team called before 9-year-old was pepper-sprayed? | WHEC.com

Why wasn’t the Person in Crisis team called before 9-year-old was pepper-sprayed?

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: February 01, 2021 06:28 PM
Created: February 01, 2021 05:48 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and members of the Rochester City Council say the situation that led to a 9-year-old being pepper-sprayed should have been handled differently by the Rochester Police Department. But, the reforms the city promised in regards to how mental health calls would be handled following the death of Daniel Prude last year didn’t happen fast enough to help this little girl.  

The city has been touting a new, specialized Person in Crisis (PIC) team. The team consists of social workers and mental health professionals that respond to calls for persons in distress. At a press conference on Oct. 15, 2020, Warren announced this new PIC team would handle the following services:

  • Family Crisis Intervention Team (FACIT): Provides crisis counseling to victims directly after the crisis has occurred. The team will connect clients to services, coordinate between service providers and provide follow-up case management. The FACIT team currently operates within the Rochester Police Department and will be transferred to the Department of Recreation and Human Services.
  • Victims Assistance Unit (VAU): Provides crisis support services after a crime, conducts home/hospital visits, works with victims to help them understand the criminal justice system, makes referrals to other agencies, provides transportation to and from court for victims and witnesses when needed, and provides filing assistance for NYS Crime Victim Compensation. These services also currently operate within the Rochester Police Department, and will be transferred to the Department of Recreation and Human Services. 
  • The Homicide Response Team: will respond in 4 – 6 member units to homicides. The teams will support family members of the victims by connecting them to support services provided by FACIT, VAU or other community-based providers. The team will also provide grief and intervention services to neighbors in an effort to prevent retaliation or continued violence. Coalition partners, including Pathways to Peace, Save Our Youth and Rise Up Rochester, have been meeting since 2018 to discuss the needs and formation of the Homicide Response Team. Training for team members has already begun, and response units are set to launch in November.
  • The Crisis Response Team: will respond to mental health, domestic violence and other related crises. A coordinated response to crisis calls within our community is essential to ensuring that calls for help are handled appropriately and those in crisis receive the type of care they need. Initial Emergency Response Social Workers have been hired, and an Advisory Committee is working on a pilot plan.

The body-worn camera clearly shows a child in crisis, so why wasn’t PIC called? 

“Unfortunately, this was not an incident where the PIC team would have been called because of the type of initial call to 911,” Warren said during a press briefing Sunday.    

The original 911 call was for family trouble with a possible stolen car.

Right now, if there is any possible crime associated with a person in crisis police respond.

"The PIC team at this time is being dispatched to a certain set of calls that they are going to in lieu of RPD. The co-response protocols that we have built into later into the pilot are still under development,” Dr. Daniele Lyman-Torres, the commissioner of the Department of Recreation and Human Services said.

Meaning, it’s either police or PIC.

“It's meant to be a tiered response but we didn't get there yet so, the PIC team has been in operation for 10 days and was starting out with three call types that did not require a police response,” City Councilmember Mary Lupien explained during a council meeting on Monday. 

City officials and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello say that RPD officers on-scene could have called for help from a similar team of mental health experts that the county has called the Monroe County Forensic Intervention Team. Members of that team responded to 1,150 calls with law enforcement last year, a majority of those within the city. RPD has not commented on why that team was not called.

“We’re going to be constantly evolving and growing and learning and getting better and while that is happening we cannot stop using common sense, empathy, and compassion, those things that distinguish us as humans and not animals,” City Council President Loretta Scott said.  

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