The legislation is named after Marcus-David Peters, 24-year-old teacher who was shot and killed by a Richmond police officer in 2018 while experiencing a mental health emergency.
A Virginia Senate committee approved a bill that would set up an alert system to dispatch mental health specialists alongside police officers to help people experiencing potential crises.
The legislation was named after Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old teacher who was shot and killed by a Richmond police officer in 2018 while experiencing a mental health emergency.
WRIC reported that the responding officer was heard on video acknowledging Peter’s mental state, saying “the male seems to be mentally unstable as we speak.”
“Marcus needed help, not death,” Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) told WBDJ. “But the system and structure that we have in place today failed Marcus, his family, and our entire community. And we can do something to fix it.”
The bill is a combination of two bills proposed by McClellan and Sen. Jeremy Pike (D-Dale City). If passed, the bill would establish a co-response system between law enforcement, mental health service providers, and peer recovery specialists.
Peter’s family has been pushing for the “Marcus Alert” for years after his death. His sister, Princess Blanding, has been outspoken about the importance of police and criminal justice reform.
Blanding said the alert system would ensure that people who are experiencing a mental health crisis “receive help and not incarceration, that they receive help and not death.”
After the vote, the bill was sent to the Finance Committee on the third day of the General Assembly’s two week special session focused around retooling the state budget and reforming police and criminal justice policy.