Thursday, September 10, 2015

There Is No Excuse For This At All

The Fairfax County VA sheriff released the following video of the actions of her deputies that preceded the death of Natasha McKinney last February. The officers involved have been found to be not criminally liable.

There is no excuse for this at all. I haven't watched every minute of the video, and I don't recommend it as even something to witness in its entirety. It's a document of a horrible and inexcusable "extraction" for transport.

First off, Ms. McKinney should not have been in jail. She should have been seen and treated by mental health professionals for a serious condition that had previously manifested leading to the assault charges against her for which she was arrested and jailed.

Her condition deteriorated in jail to the point where the deputies decided she'd better be transported to the jail in Alexandria since the charge of assault was in Alexandria. The facility would not come for her. Therefore the deputies decided to transport her themselves.

In order to do this, certain jail protocols had to be observed, the first being that the inmate had to be restrained with handcuffs and shackles. Ms. McKenna at first agreed to be handcuffed, then refused.

The video begins with an officer stating the determination to "extract" Ms. McKenna against her will for transport to the jail in Alexandria.

Six officers in hazmat suits are delegated to perform the extraction along with another older deputy sheriff not in a hazmat suit who appears to be in charge of the operation. Three or four deputies -- also not in hazmat suits -- mill around at the end of the hall observing the procedure.

After some struggle, the older deputy manages to figure out how to open Ms McKenna's cell door, and she steps out. She is nude. She says, "You promised not to kill me!" At that point, I nearly lost it. Here are these men in hazmat suits, looking like some kind of hideous aliens, ordering her around and struggling with her, forcing her to the floor, and attempting for over fifteen minutes to secure her in various restraints, all the while shouting "Stop resisting!" and threatening her with a taser.

It's insane.

Part of the insanity is that these men are following protocols and do not know what they are doing. They are trying to achieve something that protocol demands -- the full restraint of the prisoner prior to transport -- without having a clue to how to accomplish it when the prisoner is a rather small nude woman having a serious mental health breakdown who would rather not be restrained, at least not the way these officers want to do it.

She's on the floor, on her stomach. There are four deputies on top of her pressing her head into the floor, and apparently also pressing down on her limbs and back. It's hard to tell from the angle of the videography just what they are doing, but they are clearly having a very difficult time restraining her.

One deputy has a taser and is not on top of her. The older deputy keeps trying to reason with her. The others are shouting and threatening and trying to force her legs and arms into position to shackle and handcuff her.

We've seen it a thousand times, even when people are not resisting at all officers are very seldom able to move arms or legs of detainees into the correct position for shackling and handcuffing without a tremendous struggle. I've often wondered whether they have any idea how to do it in the first place, and whether they understand why what they want to do is nearly impossible when the detainee is face down on the ground with three or four officers on top. It just doesn't work.

And the detainee is often injured, sometimes seriously, as the officers repeatedly attempt and fail to handcuff and/or shackle their quarry.

The procedure itself is faulty. It fails so often in fact that I've become convinced it is a deliberate form of "pain compliance" -- ie: torture -- for the purpose of asserting dominance, not in fact to "secure" the individual.

Ms. McKenna doesn't actually appear to be struggling or resisting; she appears to be responding to the pain being inflicted upon her.

More that fifteen minutes later, she is sufficiently restrained to be put in a prostraint chair for transport to a van which is supposed to take her to Alexandria.

Though they keep saying she's resisting, she doesn't appear to be. "Resisting" in this context seems to mean any movement at all. She's clearly uncomfortable and uncooperative. They want her to sit up in the prostraint chair and she doesn't do it. Ergo, she's "resisting" right? They keep telling her to stop kicking her legs, but she doesn't appear to be, or if she is, the movement is slight and may be involuntary.

So, because she continues to "resist" she's tasered. From what I saw, it appeared she was tasered once while she was on the floor, and three times while she was in the chair. Restrained. In other words, there was no need to shock her -- except for the fact that she wasn't in the exact position they wanted her to be in, and this was unacceptable.

Control is all-important.

Of course when a person is shocked with a taser, they can't obey orders to sit in such and such a position. When they're having a psychotic break, as Ms. McKenna may have been, they are rarely going to obey any order at all.

Police are the least qualified people to deal with a person in crisis, and what they do -- as amply demonstrated in this video -- is seriously detrimental to their own well being and that of their subject.

Ms McKinney appeared to go into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing shortly after she was tased for the fourth time in a few minutes. Medical personnel were summoned but did nothing. In fact, it appeared that CPR was eventually administered by the older deputy who had been trying to restrain her in the first place.

Ms. McKinney was revived [in the ambulance after 20 minutes without breathing or a pulse] and was taken to a hospital where she died in a coma a week later.

The medical examiner attributed her death to "excited delirium." Whatever that is. They say she was covered with bruises and lacerations, and apparently one of her fingers was amputated while she was in the hospital -- due to injuries sustained during the attempt to restrain her.

She shouldn't have been in the jail at all regardless of any charges that may have been made against her for things that happened while she was having a mental health crisis. Those restraint procedures should never have been applied to her (not to anyone). She should not have been tased (there was no need), and she should not have been tased four times within a few minutes.

The whole thing was a cockup, but the officers involved were exonerated of criminal liability, so they don't know that. The sheriff vows "changes" to protocols and procedures for dealing with mentally ill inmates.

She said the jail is where mentally ill individuals are sent more often than not.

This is wrong and insane, but according to those who say they know, Virginia does not have a public mental health care system. Mentally ill individuals who are acting out go to jail. There is no other facility available to most of them.

This is the legacy of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, coming right out of a belief that there is no such thing as mental illness, just behavior problems which can be corrected through medication, surgery or punishment.

Of course death is also a corrective for behavior problems, isn't it?

There is no excuse.

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