New York

Another Subway Death Solution: NYPD Tracking of Mentally Ill?


Okay, the platform doors, laser alert system and the advice for conductors to slow down were one thing. But this goes a little above and beyond that.

Yesterday, news came that the NYPD, in accordance with the Health Department, has tracked down 25 mentally ill patients that have been deemed dangerous and on “mental hygiene warrants.” And, contrary to the MTA and the Transit Workers Union, the NYPD has no problem going right ahead with this “solution” to the subway death problem.
Apparently, the law enforcement agency is using this “real life crime center” to arrest them, which we believe is similar to the one Morgan Freeman’s character has access to in The Dark Knight.

In other words, the NYPD is on the lookout for those behind the subway incidents that have occurred over the past few months — situations where innocent passerby’s were pushed onto the tracks by said suspects, all of which have raised major concerns about subway safety in recent weeks. The “epidemic” even prompted an emergency hearing by Councilman Joe Vacca (except it basically turned into a yelling match between the MTA and the union).

We’re still unsure if surveillance is the best or the creepiest way to combat this problem. Actually wait, no, the bloody MetroCards were. But this is a close second.

There are two main issues in this debate: the effectiveness of Kendra’s Law and the fact that, yes, the NYPD is surveilling (and then arresting) citizens.

Kendra’s Law was passed in New York State in 1999 after a bump in subway deaths. The legislation gives judges the right to order involuntary treatment to those who meet the criteria of “mentally ill.” However, the patients under watch are not legally required to take their medication. Fast forward to last December: it was discovered that Erika Menendez, arrested for fatally pushing a man onto the tracks for being a Muslim, was not taking hers.

Unfortunately, surveillance is not a new subject for the NYPD. The Muslim wiretapping controversy last year brought new light on what has been going on with the Boys in Blue in this post-9/11 world. Except some of the suspected were college kids on an Ivy League white-water rafting trip. In this case, the targeted are the mentally ill; citizens that have been put on this watch list for simply not taking their medication, proving to authorities that, almost automatically, they provide some sort of threat to society. It’s like this strange intersection between quasi-Orwellian tendencies and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Next.

The Voice will keep you updated on this story as it progresses. Because we’re sure it will.


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