Things That Matter

New York City Will Try to Answer Mental Health Calls With Crisis Workers Instead of Police Officers

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It looks like New York City is taking a much-needed step forward in the area of police reform. Last Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, announced a brand new pilot program in which mental health crisis workers, instead of police, will be dispatched in response to non-violent mental health calls.

“For the first time in our city’s history, health responders will be the default responders for a person in crisis, making sure those struggling with mental illness receive the help they need,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement.

According to CNN, New York City received over 170,000 mental health-related calls in 2019.

That is roughly one call every three minutes. Police officers respond to every one of those calls–regardless if there is a threat of violence.

DeBlasio’s statement explained that police officers would accompany mental health workers if there was any threat of violence. The program, which is set to begin in February, will be tested out in two unidentified “high-need” neighborhoods.

The pilot program is in response to near-universal calls for police reform that raised to a fever pitch in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police.

Advocates of police reform argue that American police are over-militarized and tend to escalate conflict instead of de-escalating. This can be particularly frustrating in the cases of people with mental health problems, who often need a doctor more than they need a police officer.

“Treating mental-health crises as mental-health challenges and not public safety ones is the modern and more appropriate approach,” wrote McCray in a press release. “That is because most individuals with psychiatric concerns are much more likely to be victims or harm themselves than others.’’

Ideally, a program like this will encourage families to no longer be afraid of calling emergency services if a loved one is having a mental health crisis. No one should be afraid of losing their life when they call 911 for help.

The general response to this new experiment was that of both optimism and skepticism.

One former police officer told CNN that the program had promise, but he was worried for situations when a mentally ill person “turns on a dime” and becomes violent with little provocation.

This person pointed out that mental health pros have better training at de-escalating situations.

Unfortunately, police officers don’t have the robust training in handling mentally ill people as social workers and crisis workers do.

This person is glad that the police will still be an option if back-up is needed:

We’ve heard one too many stories about disabled or mentally ill children and/or adults being violently dealt with by police officers. This program sounds like it could be a stepping stone.

This person made an interesting point about “defunding the police” vs “funding social services”

Sometimes, something as simple as changing semantics can make all the difference. We should be re-routing funds to make people safer, not to further militarize the police.

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Apparently Cops Are Playing Music While Being Filmed And It’s For A Very Sinister Reason

Things That Matter

Apparently Cops Are Playing Music While Being Filmed And It’s For A Very Sinister Reason

Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Over the past few years, cops sure have become increasingly vocal about their disdain of average citizens exercising their constitutional right to record interactions with authorities. It’s almost as if many of them feel they are above the law itself.

Now, some officers appear to be trying to evade videos of them circulating on social media through a crafty — if not exactly airtight — strategy: playing copyrighted music loudly and for long enough to be flagged by automatic censoring software on apps like Instagram.

A report has emerged of police using copyrighted music to trigger social media takedowns.

According to VICE News, a well-known LA activist went into the Beverly Hills Police Department to obtain body cam footage from a recent traffic stop. Sennett Devermont, the activist, did what he normally does during his interactions with police and live-streamed the interaction to his more than 300,000 followers on Instagram.

It all started out friendly and chill, however, things got weird when the officer started scrolling through his phone. Shortly after, Sublime’s hit from the 90s, “Santeria”, started playing and the officer stopped talking.

Sir, you’re putting on music while I’m trying to talk to you. Can you turn that off? It’s a little ridiculous,” Devermont can be heard saying, followed by a sizable pause from Sgt. Fair. “I’m just trying to see how many people are watching this. Since you didn’t answer my simple question, I tried to find it myself,” the officer finally replies from behind a Blue Lives Matter face mask, alluding to their discussion from a few moments earlier regarding how many people might be watching the livestream.

A separate encounter with the same officer plays within the same edited clip near what appears to be an active crime scene. “What — why are you playing music?” repeats Devermont, to which Sgt. Fair teasingly asks, “What? I can’t hear you.”

So is it working?

Theoretically, the strategy could make the videos subject to content flagging, or even account suspensions and bans. That said, Instagram’s content monitoring algorithms are inconsistent at best, and every upload of Devermont’s encounters remain on the social media app.

In most cases, filming on-duty police is an American right protected by the First Amendment. Law enforcement is more aware of this than most citizens, so people like Sgt. Fair and others know exactly what they are doing when they start playing music. The question is whether these are the acts of a few industrious police, or a recommended policy handed down from on high.

Take all this as a polite reminder that it is absolutely legal to film cops in situations like the ones in these videos, and you should feel free to do so if inclined. There are even apps to help you do just that, so don’t let Sublime’s “Santeria” — or any other tunes, even ones you hate — dissuade you.

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This Beautiful Model’s Experience With Vitiligo Is a Lesson To All Of Us

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This Beautiful Model’s Experience With Vitiligo Is a Lesson To All Of Us

ogermon / Getty

Those who are familiar with the long-term skin condition called vitiligo know that it can deeply affect a person mentally. Characterized by the loss of pigment in skin, vitiligo can often cause psychological stress for those who experience stigma brought on by the condition.

One model, who is based out of Rio de JanMeiro, Brazil know’s the stress such a condition can cause because he has it.

Roger Monte is a 37-year-old model with vitiligo.

Speaking to mitú, about his experience with vitiligo, Monte says “I really feel super comfortable being who I am.  My spots differ from people and make me unique.” It’s a change from his first reactions to the skin condition that affects 0.5 percent and 1 percent of people worldwide.

Soon after noticing the first white patch that had appeared on his skin at the age of 23, Roger has said that his world completely changed. “Seeing my skin losing pigmentation was terrifying for me. I thought my life, which had barely even started yet, was over at that moment. When I found out that vitiligo can develop because of emotional stress, I blamed myself for it every single day,” he explained according to Daily Mail. “I had a really dark few years and I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t accept my condition at all and started using makeup to camouflage my spots.”

When he soon came to learn that vitiligo can be exacerbated by stress, Roger found himself even more distressed.

“I had a really dark few years and I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t accept my condition at all and started using makeup to camouflage my spots,” he explained. “I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror and I wore makeup to cover my vitiligo for ten long years. It felt like I was being held, hostage. I didn’t like going to the beach or the gym or anything that made me sweat. I was terrified that someone would notice my spots even though looking back, it must’ve been quite obvious to anyone who looked closely.”

It took Roger a decade to ultimately come to terms with his condition and, eventually, he learned to stop hiding behind makeup.

Eventually, Roger found himself embraced by friends he met at a gym and discovered the full support of those around him.

“In 2016, I met some incredible new friends who started to make me see my spots as something unique and beautiful. One day, I just woke up, took out my cell phone, took a picture and posted it to Instagram,” he explained. “I had never had a photo of me get so many comments and likes. People I hadn’t seen in years were praising my skin and saying that they had never noticed that I had the disease. I even had a boy who had also been hiding his own vitiligo with makeup contact me to say that my posts had inspired him to stop hiding his skin. Another girl even got in touch to say that my story had helped cure her depression.”

The power of Roger’s influence on social media is clear in the 34.5k followers he has amassed in the past few years. When it comes to giving advice to little boys and girls with vitiligo Monte told us at mitú he hopes they learn to “Take on your colors. The world is already full of more of the same and needs colorful and empowered people like us!  Love yourself!

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