YORK, Pa. — The York City Police Department is launching the a new program that aims to help police prevent dangerous situations by building a registry of individuals who may need special care.
The “Handle with Care” program will alert officers responding to a scene if someone at that address has special mental or physical needs.
The program is partly a response to recent police shootings of people with mental illness in Pennsylvania: that of Ricardo Munoz in Lancaster in September, and of Walter Wallace, Jr. in Philadelphia in October.
“The more information you have, the better result is going to be,” said York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow. “And some of those unintended results or unintended consequences that end up happening in some of these situations prayerfully won’t happen.”
Muldrow was sworn in as commissioner on Oct. 30, with a pledged commitment to change and progress in police interactions with the community. Since then he began another program, “Walk and Talks,” twice-weekly police walks through various York neighborhoods.
Muldrow said he had a personal connection to the “Handle with Care” registry.
“For me it’s a bit intimate because I have a family member who’s currently going through issues with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” he said.
In order to register a loved one in the program, contact Shelby Pierre of the York City Police by phone at (717) 676-0475 or by email at SPierre@YorkCity.org.
Applicants will be asked to describe the person’s special needs—including mental illness, disability or medical issue—and send a photo.
Then, if police encounter that person or are dispatched to their house, they’ll get an alert with the information.
“They’ll literally be able to tell you that someone who lives there requires special care,” Muldrow said.
Muldrow acknowledged police officers don’t always have the resources to handle mental health crises. He hopes to bring in additional responders and training through York County’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Program.
“Handle with Care” is already expanding. When York County District Attorney Dave Sunday heard about the program, he quickly decided to implement it county-wide.
“I told him that on a Thursday night, and by Friday morning [Sunday] actually called me back,” Muldrow said.
The transition to open “Handle with Care” throughout York County is expected to take several weeks.