[Hpn] 12/13/00 Hearing on: The death of Robert Brown;Testimony by: Joseph A. Rogers
Morgan W. Brown
Mon, 18 Jun 2001 16:19:03 -0400
Below is a forward of the testimony of Joseph Rogers on December 13, 2000
given at a hearing of the Philadelphia City Council on the death of Robert
Robert Brown was homeless and labeled with mental illness and was killed by
Amtrak police officers on July 18, 2000.
Following that, FYI, are Web addresses for additional information on the
subject of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) which Joseph Rogers raised in his
testimony and continues to speak to the press about as well.
Morgan W. Brown
-------Forwarded hearing testimony-------
Hearing on: The death of Robert Brown
Testimony by: Joseph A. Rogers, President and CEO
Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania
1211 Chestnut Street, 11th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-751-1800, ext. 273; Fax: 215-636-6312
Presented to: Philadelphia City Council
December 13, 2000, 12 p.m.
Councilwomen Blackwell and Tasco, on behalf of the Mental Health Association
of Southeastern Pennsylvania, of which I am president and CEO, I want to
thank you for holding this hearing to investigate the killing of Robert
Brown by an Amtrak police officer in 30th Street Station last July.
This is not the first such death. For example, a similar tragedy occurred
last January, when Harold Greenwald, who also had mental illness, was shot
and killed in his own back yard by a Philadelphia police officer.
These occurrences are tragedies not only for the individuals whose lives are
cut short and for their families, but for the police officers involved.
Since people may develop mental illness and go into crisis without much
warning, there is no way to predict such events. Therefore, we need to be
able to respond when people are in crisis and their actions are putting the
public at risk. And, for the most part, that response has got to be by the
In talking to experts around the country, we have found that an excellent
model is the Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, developed by the Memphis,
Tennessee, Police Department. Because of its effectiveness, the Memphis
model has been adopted by other cities, including Houston; Albuquerque, New
Mexico; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle. It is clearly very replicable.
Before the CIT was established, the Memphis criminal justice and mental
health systems were adversaries, and the police response often resulted in
arrests and injuries. After the team went into effect, "the number of people
the police were putting in jail decreased, and there has been a very, very
significant decrease in officer injuries in regard to crisis calls,"
according to Lt. Sam Cochran, coordinator of the Memphis CIT. Memphis had
not previously kept statistics on consumers getting hurt, but he believed
that those numbers had decreased as well. The number of times the SWAT team
has had to be called in has been reduced also, he said. In addition, most
people with mental illness are taken to medical facilities without charges
being filed. There has also been a great reduction in the amount of time the
officers need to spend on such calls; therefore, officers return to service
much more quickly.
In a 1999 report, Amnesty International confirmed that the Memphis model has
been extremely successful in achieving "reductions in the use of deadly
force and in injuries sustained by officers and civilians, as well as
reductions in the use of restraints."
The Houston Police Department started out with a CIT pilot project, but
announced last March that it would be expanded citywide because of its great
success. According to Houston Police Chief C.O. Bradford, "The CIT has
proven to be a valuable tool for patrol officers in the handling of
individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. CIT is an example of
policing for the 21st century and is spreading to law enforcement agencies
throughout the country."
Since some people have questioned whether the CIT model would work in a big
city, it is compelling that Houston is even larger than Philadelphia in
population and geographic area, according to 1990 census figures.
The Memphis CIT currently consists of nearly a fifth of the Uniform Patrol
Division, about 190 officers out of a division of approximately a thousand,
and they handle approximately 7,000 calls involving people with mental
disabilities annually. The CIT officers maintain city-wide coverage 24 hours
a day, seven days a week. They are not limited to geographical boundaries
regarding calls involving people with mental disabilities; and they also
respond to other calls, which makes the program efficient within the overall
context of police services.
When CIT officers, who wear an identifying pin, arrive on the scene, they
are in charge, no matter what their rank. However, if the situation evolves
into a barricade situation, a supervisor may decide to turn things over to
CIT officers, who volunteer and than are selected based on their judgment
and maturity, attend an initial 40-hour training curriculum supervised by
mental health providers, family advocates and mental health consumer groups
at no expense to the city. The training enables officers to understand that
mental illness is not a crime, but a disease. The officers also develop
relevant skills, including how to de-escalate potentially volatile
Although police departments without crisis response programs may also
provide training related to mental illness issues, mere training is not
enough, according to Lt. Cochran. He said that the cohesiveness developed by
the team approach is vital to its success. The team members feel that they
belong to an elite group, and their morale is correspondingly high.
As a result of the Memphis CIT, consumers have more choices and better care,
and their attitudes toward the police have improved. Family members view
police as advocates, and mental health professionals regard CIT as "their
team," which they can rely on during critical moments.
According to the Memphis team, the program's overall success depends upon
the capability of the mental health emergency system to respond to the needs
of police. It is critical that officers be able to take a consumer to a
place of safety that is not a standard lock-up or jail.
In addition, there must be an ongoing working relationship between police
and the mental health community. In a report on a study comparing police
response programs in Birmingham, Ala., Memphis, and Knoxville, Tenn., the
researchers found that collaborations between the criminal justice system,
the mental health system, and the advocacy community plus essential services
reduced the inappropriate use of U.S. jails to house persons with acute
symptoms of mental illness.
We at the Mental Health Association believe that all of these conditions
could be met in Philadelphia, to the benefit of everyone: police, consumers,
family members, and mental health professionals. We are urging the
Philadelphia Police Department to adopt the Crisis Intervention Team model
used in Houston and other cities, which helps police officers deal more
safely, efficiently and effectively with people in psychiatric crises. We
believe that, if Philadelphia had such a team, Robert Brown might very well
be alive today; and that his death, along with similar tragic incidents that
have involved the Philadelphia Police Department, proves that the police
need a better system of dealing with people with psychiatric disabilities.
Abridged testimony of Joseph A. Rogers before City Council, December 13,
---End of forwarded hearing testimony---
~~~Related Web sites -- for additional information on CIT's:
News in Perspective
June 14, 1998
Police mental health crisis
intervention training needed:
Crisis Intervention Team
Depressive Manic-Depressive Association of Virginia (DMDAV):
-- Questions about the Crisis Intervention Team?
Contact Major Sam Cochran <firstname.lastname@example.org> for more Info.
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
-------End of forward-------
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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