Twice in a week, police fatally shot emotionally disturbed men on rampages. The deaths of 18-year-old Khiel Coppin and 30-year-old Dragan Kostovski have triggered calls for overhauling NYPD procedures.
Only good could come of reviewing how police deal with the dangerously mentally ill. If a life can be spared without endangering cops, terrific. But, ultimately, the seeds for these tragedies are sown in a dysfunctional mental health system.
Coppin claimed he had a gun and threatened police with a knife before he was killed as he advanced – brandishing a hairbrush. Kostovski had cut a roommate with a knife, and he lunged at police with a broken bottle.
Both men had fallen through cracks in the mental health system. Coppin was off his medications, and a mobile crisis team took too long to arrive at his family’s home and left too quickly when he wasn’t there. Kostovski was placed in a building that seems to have had a revolving door for mental patients.
Each was a danger to himself and to others – as are many more disturbed people who have been left to fend for themselves, with disastrous consequences. Every year, the city suffers multiple episodes in which violent mentally ill people wreak havoc.
Most recently: On Second Ave., a psychiatric patient stabbed a 67-year-old woman and the restaurant worker who tried to protect her; four cops were injured by a man off his meds; a cop killed a psych patient as the man held a knife to a woman’s throat; a man killed the elderly father of three city cops because voices ordered him to attack; an ex-con assaulted a man with a power saw; cops killed a bipolar addict who refused to drop a gun.
After the Second Ave. attack, Gov. Spitzer pledged to create a panel to find ways to protect the public from crazies on the street. Now, there have been two more tragedies, two more reasons for swift, serious action.
Spitzer’s people must examine from top to bottom whose job it is to monitor patients after release from the hospital and why the patchwork of nonprofit agencies and other outpatient services simply isn’t working. Before there’s another Khiel Coppin or Dragan Kostovski.
Thanks to market manipulation by a power company, Con Ed customers were ripped off to the tune of $200 million over the past two summers, according to state officials. And New Yorkers could well be victimized again unless federal regulators stop blocking the necessary reforms.
The state Consumer Protection Board says the scheme began last year, when a major supplier of juice for New York City withheld generating capacity from a wholesale auction – inflating the city’s already sky-high electric rates. Officials aren’t naming names, but industry experts are pointing fingers at KeySpan.
Regardless of whodunit, the city’s three major power suppliers – KeySpan, US Powergen and NRG – made out like bandits while electric customers got socked with overcharges estimated at $119 million in 2006 and $87 million this year. That’s according to Con Ed, which buys and transmits the electricity.
State officials demanded refunds – and tried to fix the auction rules – only to be shot down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But that was before KeySpan disclosed that it’s being probed by the Justice Department’s antitrust division. Now state officials are again pushing FERC to do right by Con Ed customers. The feds better not blow it this time.
Go home, judge
Twenty-five years ago, the courts determined that New York was violating the state constitutional rights of the homeless by not providing adequate shelter. And for 22 of those years, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Helen Freedman has enforced the ruling by ordering the city to do this, that and the other.
The hallmark of Freedman’s career on the bench, the case empowered her to serve as overlord of New York’s $735 million-a-year Department of Homeless Services. But all things, good and otherwise, must end. In February 2006, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo asked Freedman to hold a trial that would determine whether the Bloomberg administration is meeting its constitutional obligations to the homeless.
That’s how the courts are supposed to work, right? You present evidence and a judge issues a ruling. Not this time. Unbelievably, Freedman refuses to give City Hall the chance to prove it has improved homeless services to the point that she should relinquish power. Instead, the judge is appointing a three-member panel to check how shelter workers are doing their jobs.
The last time Freedman appointed such a panel, the members reported that the Bloomberg administration was doing a fine job, and they recommended that Freedman bow out. Which was two years ago. Her new decision is a time-wasting dodge. She is extending her sway for who knows how long by denying the city the right to prove its case at trial. And that’s fundamentally wrong.
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