The call comes in from a high-rise complex on Third Avenue in mid-city Los Angeles: A woman is again throwing items from her ninth-floor apartment balcony. On this day, it’s a large picture frame, its glass now shattered in the courtyard below.
A special LAPD team joins patrol officers on the scene. In the hallway outside the apartment, Officer Dennis Nguyen meets with supervising Detective Jim Hoffman and tells him that the woman inside is acting “a bit erratic.”
“She's been standing up, sitting down, making furtive movements,” he tells Hoffman before heading back into the apartment.
Rather than arrest the woman, Nguyen and his partner — a mental health clinician — talk with her in an attempt to calm her down. Eventually, their efforts pay off: The woman agrees to allow the pair to take her to a hospital, where she’s placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.
The incident marks another successful intervention for the LAPD’s Mental Evaluation Unit, a nationally renowned operation that's credited with defusing potentially explosive encounters with people in the midst of a mental health crisis. The unit's work also results in the diversion of hundreds of people each year to treatment instead of jail.