Monday, January 26, 2015

The Intersection of Cops, Prison and Mental Illness

That a young, mentally ill female is shot dead by three officers INSIDE A POLICE STATION is beyond belief.

How is it remotely possible that three officers could not find some non-lethal method to restrain her? Oh, it's Texas. The safest place in Texas is if she had a gun, says the NRA. Does that make a damned bit of sense when cops kill you if they even think you might have a gun or may just put their life in jeopardy?

When are we going to train cops to deal with the mentally ill? Someone who is mentally ill is so much more likely to be shot in a police encounter because some cops are so inflammatory in how they approach some citizens. In fact, some cops when they sense emotional instability feel threatened and use this to escalate a situation. This has to change.

Cops have a very dangerous but very crucial job in maintaining the stability and security of our country. We should be all grateful, and too often, they are disrespected or feel disrespected. That being said, just because people that pledge to serve and protect and are paid to do so feel disrespected or actually are disrespected does not give those people the license to use lethal force or to abuse their power and authority on the citizenry. Disrespect should be expected in that line of work and in any line of work.

There is a culture within some of the police community that is not conducive to any scrutiny whatsoever. This subset of the police believes they should be above the law because of the risk to their life and limb. This belief is perpetuated by some within the public, usually due to personal connections to the police, firefighters or military service, all of which are understandable. However, blind defense and no accountability actually make cops less safe in the long run.

It is distrust of the police that generate paranoia and anxiety, which brings me back to mental illness. The way that cops talk to, or in some cases talk at, members of the public can escalate or deescalate situations. The training involved is extensive and intensive, and not nearly enough cops are receiving that training. Considering that in 2011 the surveillance numbers for mental illness in America was 1 in 4 Americans, every cop that is on the street should absolutely be trained in how to encounter the mentally ill. (

When you add this to recent statistics that place the prison population incidence of mental illness at nearly 50% (, the intersection of cops, prison, criminal justice and the mentally ill becomes painfully clear. We have to do better as a society. We need to hold ourselves as an American society accountable, not just cops.

We should pay cops more, train them better, have higher hiring standards and certainly hold them as accountable as average Americans.

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