MANHATTAN — The deadly police shooting of a woman in The Bronx has once again raised the issue of police tactics and training, particularly as it pertains to people who may be mentally ill.
"That's not how it's supposed to go. It's not how we train," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said the morning after an NYPD sergeant shot 66-year-old Deborah Danner in her Castle Hill apartment.
Danner, who police described as emotionally disturbed, apparently swung a baseball bat at the sergeant, Hugh Barry, after he had entered her apartment following a call from a neighbor and engaged her in conversation and convinced her to drop a pair of scissors.
"What is clear in this one instance, we failed," O'Neill continued. "I want to know why it happened."
Law enforcement sources told DNAinfo New York that there are certain protocols the NYPD follows when dealing with emotionally disturbed people, and they are guided by two words: Isolate and contain.
Ed Mullins, the head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said the failure lay not with the officer involved in the shooting, but with NYPD training and procedures.
"If [O'Neill] feels we failed, then he should have had policies in place so that we didn't fail," Mullins said.
Protocol if a mentally ill person is inside their own home:
If a person is inside their home, as in the case of Danner, the protocol is to shut the door and keep them inside until specially trained Emergency Services Unit officers, who have various additional tools and techniques to handle such situations, arrive, according to sources.
However, it is generally recommended that a patrol officer not enter the person's home in that situation, sources said, lest they risk putting themselves or others in harm's way. If an officer does enter the home and interact with the person, they should be placed in handcuffs as quickly as possible so as not to endanger themselves or police officers.
Hostage negotiators can also be called into the situation to intervene with special training, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference following the shooting.
Protocol of Use of Force:
If officers respond and find an emotionally disturbed person cannot be contained in handcuffs, the NYPD has designated Tasers as the preferred weapon to use to subdue them, rather than their service weapon. However, there are exceptions to the use of a Taser, such as when an individual is as in the case of Inman Morales, who fell to his death from atop a roll-down gate on his apartment building in Brooklyn after officers used a Taser on him in 2008.
Emergency Services Unit officers have other non-lethal weapons and tools at their disposal: "Y-bars," which are poles with a U or a Y shape at the end to keep people at bay, water cannons and an Arwin 37 mm launcher that fires a sponge round to stun victims with a blow to the chest.
Whatever the technique used, officers are trained to use them sparingly.
"We pride ourselves on using restraint," a law enforcement source said. "And the older a person is the more restraint we try to use."