Deborah Danner was at various times a member of three different churches in the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and she was loved by the many people whose lives she touched through her devoted participation in the ministries of the church in this city. Her killing in October 2016 shocked, saddened and angered our communities, and raised for us the significant and troubling questions of how our city and its institutions engage the mentally ill. So we were gratified that the Mayor of New York and the Police Commissioner at once publicly stated their conviction that the taking of Deborah’s life was wrong, and reached out to her family. We also continue to admire and support our city’s First Lady for her commitment to the mentally ill and their care in New York.
Therefore we were disheartened by the verdict today in the trial of Sergeant Hugh Barry for Deborah’s murder, and we wish to express our continued regret that Sergeant Barry did not receive the full Critical Intervention Training which the New York City Police Department now provides for our police officers. We are gratified that the city is committed to implementing this training department-wide. Yet, we have asked that every effort be made to reach that goal within the calendar year, and are frustrated that even as the NYPD receives four hundred critical incident calls a day, full implementation is not expected until early in the next decade. We believe that if Sergeant Barry had received fuller training Deborah might yet be alive and he would have been spared the charges of and trial for murder.
We hope that Sergeant Barry’s acquittal is not understood as a vindication of his actions in Deborah’s apartment that night, nor that those actions represented appropriate police work. Again, and with urgency, we ask that every officer be trained and ready to engage the mentally ill with compassion, patience and understanding when our police engage our most troubled people in the highly charged moments of a police call. The mentally ill cannot be expected to act in reasonable or rational ways in those conflicted encounters, so the police must be.