RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s nine city council members unanimously approved the developmental phase of the ‘Marcus Alert’ program, which aims to improve law enforcement’s response to mental health-related calls.
Council members gave the OK Monday night for a group of stakeholders to draft recommendations on how first responders in the city can improve responses to residents exhibiting an emotional, psychological, or social breakdown, among other mental illnesses. The effort stems from an incident in 2018 where Marcus-David Peters was shot and killed by a Richmond police officer.
Peters, at the time, was experiencing a mental health episode when he lunged at the officer while naked. The responding officer is heard on video verbally acknowledging Peters’ mental state saying, “the male seems to be mentally unstable as we speak.”
After tasing was ineffective – this after Peters had been struck by a vehicle traveling on the interstate – the officer fatally shot Peters. 8News reported in June ‘The Marcus Alert’ would dispatch a team of mental health professionals along with police officers in a crisis situations.
Richmond City Councilman Andreas D. Addison said that blaring police lights and sirens are one of many police response methods that could agitate a mental health episode.
“Someone having a really bad day or a challenging moment in life does not need to be faced with that kind of response,” he added.
Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch agreed, saying that “‘The ‘Marcus Alert’ is going to give us a wonderful jumping point to be able to determine how to better respond, and support our communities who are struggling with mental health issues.”
Councilwoman Lynch adds that the goal is to have stakeholders present recommendations for program sometime in October.