NYAPRS Note: NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton has joined mental health and other advocacy groups’ longtime complaints about the outrageous coverage and depictions the New York Post has provided regarding people with mental illnesses.
The Post, which seems to have invented the word ‘deranged’ (just google the paper and the word), has been the source of a seemingly limitless stream of invective over the past 2 decades. Recall its article “Beware: “11,000 Psychotics On Streets” when referring to the state’s plan to help adult home residents with psychiatric disabilities to exercise their ADA right to live in their own community (http://nypost.com/2012/12/30/beware-11000-psychotics-on-streets/). Articles like these are regularly supported by advocates for court mandated treatment…but that’s a story for another time.
As you’ll see below, the Post has outdone itself in its coverage of a homeless man with an apparent diagnosis of schizophrenia, putting him on the cover 3 times in the last few days and deploying 16 separate reporters. As the blogger below points out “if homelessness is concerning to the Post, at least a handful of those 16 writers and reporters might have been better used looking into the city’s careening real estate market, social service cuts, and growing population of for-profit homeless shelters.”
But that’s apparently not what the Post is after; it’s selling papers and, along the way, using such issues to attack its political targets. Take a recent article, entitled “Undercover Reporter Exposes Intolerance for Homeless People Outside Gracie Mansion,” where a Post reporter posed as a homeless man outside Mayor De Blasio’s residence. While this stunt’s intent was to embarrass the Mayor, the article is salvaged by its compassionate remarks from everyday City residents.
Someday, people with mental health conditions and their supporters will march outside the Post every time the paper peddles its hateful portrayals of our community.
Bratton: Media Attention Worsening Man’s Schizophrenia
By Laura Nahmias Capital New York July 16, 2015
The homeless man whose picture has appeared several times on the cover of the New York Post because of his habit of urinating in public is a schizophrenic whose symptoms are being exacerbated by all the media attention, police commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday.
In recent days, the Post’s coverage of the homeless man, identified as 49-year-old John Tucker, has sparked widespread criticism on Twitter and elsewhere from other media outlets and reporters, who say the paper’s coverage is excessive and gratuitously cruel.
Bratton said the man is well known to police and that an officer “has been working for months with him trying to deal with his issues.”
“He’s an extremely emotionally disturbed individual—schizophrenic—and so all the attention is actually exacerbating his condition,” Bratton said during an appearance with Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Pursuing him for 30 or 40 blocks throughout the city is certainly doing nothing to calm him down. Rather, it’s agitating him.”
A spokeswoman for the Post did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked how he felt about a City Council initiative that seeks to decriminalize public urination, Bratton said he opposes it and called the measure a “Pandora’s Box” that could roll back advances in quality-of-life measures.
But in a lengthy aside, Bratton said that when it comes to dealing with the city’s homeless population, he wanted to make clear the distinction between criminal acts and homelessness itself, which is not a crime.
“On the issue of homelessness … we police behavior, not the condition,” he said. “It is unfortunate that so many people, through circumstances oftentimes beyond their control, find themselves homeless, find themselves on the street. There is nothing that we, the police, will do about that condition. But we will do something about behavior using the tools available to us, whether it be the criminal law or other alternatives that might be more advantageous.”
In December 2014, the de Blasio administration announced a $130 million, four-year initiative aimed at changing the way the city manages its mentally ill and incarcerated populations.
The initiative included a measure to provide additional training for police officers to help them recognize the signs of substance abuse and mental illness and be able to de-escalate scenarios that could lead to arrest or violence.
Bratton said at Wednesday event in the Bronx that he had just come from a meeting to discuss the NYPD’s plans to train more than 4,000 officers in dealing with the mentally ill.
Bratton said that while a small subset of the city’s homeless population occasionally engages in violence or illegal behavior, many don’t and pose no threat to the city’s population.
“The fear is now spreading to the total homeless population, the vast majority of whom are not engaging in illegal behavior, not engaging in violence, but are now being seen by the public as somebody to fear,” Bratton said.
“That’s unfortunate, because the vast majority of them, they’re there, they might be sitting in a park somewhere, you might not want to be sitting beside them, but they have every bit as much right to be in that park as you or I to sit on that bench.”
By J.K. Trotter TKTK.gawker.com
A decent way of evaluating a newspaper’s priorities is simply glancing at its front page, where editors typically place the stories they deem most important or newsworthy. Judging from the Saturday and Sunday editions of the New York Post, the most important and newsworthy event in New York City is the existence, and micturition schedule, of a 49-year-old homeless man named John Tucker.
From Saturday (“20 years of cleaning up NYC pissed away”):
Wrapped in rags and a Mets blanket the hobo wandered into traffic at around 10:30 a.m. and relieved himself as cabs, cars and buses whizzed by between West 83rd and 84th streets on the Upper West Side. He finished his business at a nearby garbage bin, then strolled back to the front of a Victoria’s Secret store at Broadway and 85th Street, where he camped out for the rest of the day.
From Sunday (“Peeing menace cuffed by cops, only to be back on the streets”):
New York’s revolving door of justice sprang a scary leak Saturday when a threatening, public-urinating, jagged-glass-waving homeless man was twice hauled away by cops — only to each time be quickly released to terrorize the same stretch of Broadway on the Upper West Side.
From today (“Vagrant back to peeing in the streets after hospital release”):
A disgusting derelict who’s turning the Upper West Side into an open-air toilet was back at it Sunday — just hours after two hospitals deemed him fit to wander the city’s streets. The foul-smelling vagrant, whom police sources identified as John Tucker, 49, was spotted urinating in the street on Ninth Avenue at West 47th Street at around 1:30 p.m. … Tucker’s reappearance outraged residents who recognized him from the front pages of The Post, which showed him taking a leak in the street and then in handcuffs before one of his psychiatric evaluations Saturday.
The unambiguous cruelty of publicly embarrassing someone as beleaguered as Tucker—not just by soliciting the details of his body odor and urination habits, but by publishing over a dozen pictures of him in various states of undress—is not exactly unheard of at the Post. But it’s hard to remember the last time the Post enlisted 16 different reporters—
- Tom Wilson
- Melkorka Licea
- Philip Messing
- Danika Fears
- Larry Celona
- C.J. Sullivan
- Michael Gartland
- Kirstan Conley
- Harry Shuldman
- Carl Campanile
- Bruce Golding
- Kevin Fasick
- David K. Li
- Aaron Feis
- Georgett Roberts
- Stephanie Pagones
—to publicize the bodily functions of a person hanging from the bottommost rungs of society. (If homelessness is concerning to the Post, at least a handful of those 16 writers and reporters might have been better used looking into the city’s careening real estate market, social service cuts, and growing population of for-profit homeless shelters.)
In any case, the Post’s current editorial strategy does not seem to be working. As an 87-year-old retiree named Pinky Light told the paper today: “He’s been on the cover of the newspaper . . . and he’s back in the same spot. I can’t believe it!”
Undercover Reporter Exposes Intolerance for Homeless People Outside Gracie Mansion
By Kevin Fasick, Dana Sauchelli and Bruce Golding New York Post July 15, 2015
…..“Meanwhile, other New Yorkers were far more sympathetic, with one woman even giving the undercover reporter her $6.50 deli lunch when she saw him rummaging through a garbage can.
Gnanalatha Medagedara, a nanny, said she learned compassion as a Buddhist in Sri Lanka.
“He has no money and he’s hungry, right? So I give him. I’m so happy. I give my lunch, he will eat that. How happy is that?” she said.
Plumber Damian Misiur, 20, also objected to the massive police response to a single vagrant.
“Simply because he’s homeless, they have to jump on his case. He’s a person just like anybody else, he’s not hurting anyone,” he said.”