In the aftermath of the 2020 social justice protests and calls for reform against police brutality, the U.S. has begun to grapple with itself in finding ways to better protect Americans, mainly Black people and those in vulnerable communities. In acknowledgment, public officials and advocates have pushed for immediate change by challenging one phenomenon— how society responds to individuals suffering from mental health illnesses.       

According to a database published by The Washington Post, 1 in 5 people shot by police is battling some form of mental illness. However, the city of New York recently implemented B-HEARD (Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division) in Harlem where social workers, as opposed to law enforcement, are now sent to respond to mental health calls.     

The new program has since been applauded for its potential impact on the future of policing in Black communities. Black Americans have been disproportionately
policed for decades and in New York, Black residents are twice as likely as white people to be stopped by an officer, according to data The New York Times reported in 2020.

On Jan. 10, Patrick Warren, a 52-year-old Black man in Killeen, Texas, was shot and killed by a police officer at his home after his family had specifically called for psychiatric help. Instead of sending Warren's family a mental health deputy, as was done during a previous episode, the department dispatched an armed officer.