During her visit to Rochester Tuesday, State Attorney General Tish James said she intends to push for a law changing how communities respond to mental health calls. The measure, Daniel’s Law, was authored by Assemblyman Harry Bronson and State Sen. Samra Brouk.
Brouk said the measure was inspired by a series of community conversations and discussions with Bronson about Daniel Prude’s death.
“We are completely transforming the system. We are making sure that the right person gets called when it comes to a mental health crisis,” said Brouk. “This will allow us to send someone who has spent years certifying and studying just how to handle someone who has been in a mental health or substance abuse crisis.”
The Prude case is one of those scenarios. His brother, Joe, called 911 with concerns about his mental health. Prude ran out of his brother's house after he heard a train pass by in the distance. He had PCP in his system and was said to be acting irrationally. Prude was found nude and was restrained by three officers in the middle of the street. He suffocated, suffered brain damage and died a week later.
On Tuesday, James announced that a grand jury decided that none of the seven officers involved in the Prude case would face criminal charges. Bronson said that decision makes the argument for Daniel’s Law stronger.
“That grand jury report, I think, really underscores the need for drastic, transformative and systematic changes in law enforcement training, as well as mental health response in New York State as well as the City of Rochester,” said Bronson. "We have a lot of work ahead of us to address justice and equity in our law enforcement area. Daniel's Law is a way to get there. It's not the only piece of the puzzle but it is a significant piece."
He also said it is important that 911 dispatchers get some of that training in order to decide if they should send a police officer or a mental health response unit.