Village Voice: “The NYPD’s Poor Judgement With the Mentally Ill”, Family of Shereese Francis Represented by Rankin & Taylor
On the evening of March 15, Shauna Francis called 311 looking for some information. She wanted to call an ambulance for her 30-year-old sister, Shereese, but wasn’t impressed by the quality of care at Queens General, the nearest hospital. Shauna wanted to know if she could ask the ambulance to take Shereese to a Long Island hospital.
The 311 operator told Shauna she would have to take that question up with the EMTs when they arrived and asked Shauna about the nature of the problem. Shauna explained that Shereese, a person with schizophrenia whose illness was well-controlled by her medication, had been refusing to take her meds for some time, and the family wanted doctors at a hospital to help persuade her to resume taking them.
The operator transferred Shauna to a 911 dispatcher, who listened to Shauna’s story and promised to send someone over. Shauna hung up and traveled the short distance from her home to the small, single-story house in Rochdale where her mother lived with Shereese.
As she drew up to the driveway, she saw a police cruiser had already arrived, and four officers were approaching the front door. That wasn’t unusual: On other occasions when the family had called an ambulance for Shereese, police often arrived along with the EMTs. Assuming an ambulance was probably on its way, Shauna led the officers into the house, where her mother, Eleen, explained that Shereese was in her bedroom in the basement.
What happened in that basement after the police went downstairs to talk to Shereese isn’t fully known. Shauna and Eleen saw and heard some of what transpired, but not everything. Citing an ongoing internal investigation, the police department isn’t commenting.