Advocates are teaming up with some New York state lawmakers to move closer to passing what is known as Daniel’s Law, named for Daniel Prude.

Prude died in police custody in Rochester back in 2020 during a mental health crisis.

Luke Sikinyi, public policy director for the Alliance for Rights and Recovery, said the law would create a framework for localities to create programs to respond to similar situations in place of police officers in certain cases.

“A lot of these calls do not require police in the first place,” he said. “Police officers often say this isn’t what they are trained for, and these aren’t the calls that they feel the most comfortable with. The idea of Daniel’s Law is to provide that alternative response when a police response is not needed.”

He told Spectrum News 1 it boils down to trust, and in situations like that of Prude, its critical to managing the situation and connecting with the individual experiencing a crisis. He said that because police are trained to restore order to a situation, it can be challenging for them to effectively do both.

“Someone needs to trust you in order to be vulnerable," he said. "In situations where police are coming, that immediate need to assert control, which is understandable given their training, isn’t conducive to trust,” he said.

State Sen. Samra Brouk, who sponsors the bill, said it would fund localized operations.

“Daniel's Law creates a statewide framework and a statewide counsel to approve local government response systems that put public health at the forefront of how we answer these crises,” she said.

While an ongoing task force is gathering information expected to be compiled by the end of the year, Brouk said the time is now to start the process of implementation through a pilot program.

“The reason we can’t wait is because there are already municipalities with programs that are just like Daniel’s Law and we want to be able to fund those from the state level,” she said.

Acknowledging trepidation over the idea of having individuals who are not police officers responding to incidents that have traditionally involved law enforcement, Sikinyi stressed the teams who are part of these programs are intended to work in tandem with law enforcement, not replace them. 

“Police officers can then call that team and say ‘hey I’ve got someone here and I don’t know how to best deal with them, they’re not being violent but they need support and I might not be the best person to deal with this, can you send a team to us?”

Daniel’s Law would change New York state law to limit police presence in cases of a mental health or substance-use crisis to those in which someone is in imminent danger.