Who is the real danger to society?

by gabemiller95 on September 13, 2014 - 3:22pm

“How police can avoid shooting the mentally ill” by David M. Perry, dealt with four police murder cases where the diseased had a history of mental health issues and was holding a weapon. Due to police training, the tragic ending that follows becomes inevitable when dealing with a person with psychiatric disability. “Psychiatric disability refers to mental illness that "significantly interferes with the performance of major life activities," a category that clearly applies to people whose "erratic behavior" got them killed by police.” (CNN). Police are trained to show command presence whenever they feel like they may be losing control of a situation. When the person does not comply with police orders, the forceful tactics are applied (guns, Tasers, batons, etc.). In all these cases, the only forceful tactic that police used were guns and the results were horrific.

The first case was in St. Louis, when Kajieme Powell was shot and killed after police told him to drop the knife he was holding (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx-3TKp90vg Video starts at 2:25). The facts are that he was shot 9 times, from not even a full sidewalk-distance away. He was screaming to the cops “shoot me, motherfu****”, which is not something a sane human being would say. The police chief gave a statement and press interview that did not match up with the video shown. One of worst parts about it all is that nothing will come from this because of the fact this man was holding a knife. The second case dealt with Michelle Cusseaux, an Arizona native whose mother called the police to bring her to a mental health facility. After opening and closing the door multiple times, she eventually came out with a hammer. Officers instructed her to drop it several times and her non-compliance resulted in her execution. The third case came from San Jose, when a “Crisis Intervention” trained officer killed 19 year old Diana Showman. She had bipolar disorder and claimed she had an uzi and was ready to kill her family. This was all that was told to the police, when she herself called them. When she exited the house, she did not drop the object she was holding and was shot one time. The final case in Sacramento, dealt with Jeffrey Towe. He was carrying a military combat knife in his home. The neighbor who heard Jeffrey screaming about “cutting hearts out and stuff” called the police. Unlike the other cases he did actually charge the officer with his weapon drawn when he was shot and killed.

Personally, all these situations could have been avoided by police patience. The mentality should be “think first, shoot second” but things seem to have gotten a bit twisted. In every case, a Taser could have most likely done the trick, or at least should have been the first response. Another idea is that they could have had one officer try his Taser and his partner could have had the pistol ready in case it doesn’t work. Also, these people have mental health issues. They are not super human nor have they taken drugs that rid them of all pain. Could a bullet to the arm or to the leg really be that ineffective that murdering the person is the only way? Now at the same time, I do agree that police are under constant duress, and have without a doubt one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging jobs available in the world. However, they were the ones who signed up for that position. They went to police school, they did the training, and they went for that interview. As police, they need to be more understanding of the complexity of certain situations. What if one of your family members had a mental illness and the same police officers that Michelle Cusseaux’s mom called arrived?



I could not agree more, all of these situations could have been avoided. I think that the "Rules of Escalation" are non-existent and the police are impatiently drawing their weapon. A taser could have been used for all of these cases so the opinion that I offer to your editorial is to start a dialogue about a strict and specific protocol of escalating a situation. There must be a strict protocol for what a police officer can or cannot do in different situations. Create for them a "Rules of Engagement" so to speak.