Two Connecticut attorneys are demanding that local law enforcement do better in handling mental health issues while responding to calls. This comes against the backdrop of a Black man’s death in police custody last year, even though the man’s family claims the department knew about his health issues.
Attorneys Darnell Crosland and Tricia Lindsay have called for an independent investigation of the Stamford Police Department in the death of Steven Barrier.
Barrier died in police custody last October. The medical examiner and an investigation by the state attorney's office completed in February determined the 23-year-old died of natural causes.
But Lindsay believes if police handled the arrests of people with mental disabilities differently, Barrier would still be alive.
“They are overlooked and undercounted,” said Lindsay. “They make up a disproportionate number of victims that die within the first steps of the criminal process.”
And being Black only increases that risk, Lindsay said during a news conference in Stamford Thursday.
Crosland and Lindsay met in July with Ted Jankowski, Stamford’s health and safety director. Jankowski said he shared a review of the incident by civilians and officers. Still, the attorneys were disappointed with what they were told.
“They gave us a bunch of police reports that were authored by the actors involved in Steven Barrier's case,” said Crosland.
And though body camera video was released of Barrier's death, Lindsay said there are many questions they still want answered.
“We need an independent review of what these police officers did, did not do and what they should have done. That is what we are saying here,” said Lindsay.
Both attorneys said they fear more Black men with mental health issues will die at the hands of police if nothing more is done.
Jankowski said the FBI has declined to further investigate the case. He told Connecticut Public Radio the city launched a mental health collaborative in January and continues to train all responding departments on how to better handle mental health emergencies.