Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why Do They Call The Police? - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Seems like every day there's another story of someone getting executed by police who've been called to handle a mental health crisis/emergency that family, friends and caregivers apparently can't.

Why. Do they call. The. Police?

This is what I don't get. Hundreds of people are killed by the police every year in extremis as it were. These killings -- executions -- take place with heartbreaking regularity, and most of them get plenty of coverage on the news. By now, everyone should know, without question, that once Emergency Services is called for help dealing with someone having a mental health crisis, the police will be dispatched, and in far, far too many cases, the person in crisis will be terminated.

And yet seemingly every day the calls get made, the police are dispatched, and some poor sod -- who is probably not a threat to anyone -- winds up dead.

Rule 1: When they get these calls, Emergency Services dispatches the police, not mental health caregivers or even EMTs.

Rule 2: The prime directive of the police is force protection. Everything and everyone is evaluated first and foremost in terms of threat to the officers. Any perceived threat must be neutralized by any and all means at the officer's disposal.


Rule 3: Someone having a mental health issue is almost by definition a threat to themselves, those around them and/or responding officers -- or Emergency Services would not have been called.


Rule 4: That threat must be -- and will be -- neutralized before any other service is rendered. The only means of neutralization the police know any more is through violence, including on the spot execution.

The officers are not there to "help." They are there to neutralize a perceived threat by any means necessary. In their world, those means are violent, bloody and deadly.

And they will get away with it in almost every case.

Practically every homicide committed by police is ruled "justified." Any and all threats the cops perceive are justification for use of deadly force in practically every conceivable circumstance.

So my question is: why do people keep calling the police (or Emergency Services, knowing the police will be the first responders) when all they want is some help in calming a friend or relative in crisis?

Why do they keep calling when they know -- or should know -- that the police don't do calming interventions, they do deadly ones? Do they actually want the deadly interventions that take place hundreds of times every year?

Perhaps it's an automatic and unconscious thing, as we've all been conditioned to "Call 911!" whenever we need assistance for a life threatening emergency. And perhaps we believe that if we explain the situation carefully enough, the right sort of assistance will be sent.

What do we want? Help with something beyond our control.

Who shows up? Police. And what do they do? They kill.

For the most part, there is no mental health care assistance available to the public when they call 911, only police. And the police are not concerned with offering "assistance" to the public in a mental health crisis emergency; they are interested in protecting themselves from any threat of harm from the subject of the call. They are trained and expected to use deadly force whenever they perceive a serious threat, or literally in many cases, any threat at all.

Someone in the throes of a psychotic break is about as serious a threat as police encounter, for there is no way for them to anticipate the actions/reactions of the subject. So they shoot.

What's needed is health care intervention as opposed to force protection. But that means relearning how to do it -- a skill that has been largely lost over the past few decades -- and dedicating resources to ensure that those who can do it are made available as widely as possible.

Police are the wrong responders in these situations -- that is, if those calling for help actually want help rather than deadly force. EMTs won't go to these incidents until their safety is assured, and that can't be done until the threat is neutralized, and that too often means the death of the one in crisis.

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