The Pennsylvania Democratic legislator who was kidnapped at gunpoint in Philadelphia on Wednesday is a strong supporter of federal legislation that would allow mental health specialists to replace police officers.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon is one of 125 Democrats who support the Mental Health Justice Act, despite being unhurt but losing her vehicle in the heist. The bill encourages police forces to recruit mental health specialists as initial responders to emergency situations and crimes involving people who have "behavioral" problems.
Supporters of the bill argue that having law enforcement officials respond to such instances simply raises the risk of "police brutality" being perpetrated against people with mental illnesses and other afflictions.
“For too long, the problems of people living with mental illness and disabilities have been ignored, and they have ended up in our criminal justice system — often with fatal consequences,” said Ms. Scanlon when the bill was first introduced in February. “In order to address their needs, and change the culture of policing in this country, we must direct resources to meet those needs in a way that provides alternatives to and diversion from arrest, abuse, and incarceration.”
The bill is part of a package of proposals championed by House Democrats to overhaul policing and “end systemic racism” in the justice system.
The office of Ms. Scanlon did not respond to calls for comment on this article.
The lawmaker was robbed outside of a constituent gathering in South Philadelphia earlier this week. Ms. Scanlon was heading toward her car when she was approached by two guys driving a dark-colored SUV, according to local police.
The males allegedly demanded the keys to Ms. Scanlon's 2017 blue Acura MDX at gunpoint, according to police. The automobile was stolen, along with the legislator's pocketbook, personal and official smartphones, and identity.
The truck was discovered early Thursday morning near Newark, Delaware, some 45 miles from Philadelphia. The automobile was discovered with five suspects inside, according to Delaware State Police.
The suspects have been arrested and are being held in police custody pending further investigation.
The carjacking of Ms. Scanlon is only the latest in a major crime wave that has engulfed the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The city has experienced 500 murders this year alone, the most since 1990.
The situation has been met with a delayed response from local law enforcement. Larry Krasner, the Democratic District Attorney of Philadelphia, was harshly chastised earlier this month for suggesting that: “We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence.”