Police nationwide are ill-equipped to handle the mentally ill

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Or are our expectations of officers becoming unrealistic?

The El Cajon shooting just sparked a debate that has been brought up several times in recent history, is law enforcement nationwide ill-equipped to handle the mentally ill?

The El Cajon police were dispatched on a 5150 call, which is a request for an involuntary psychiatric hold because Alfred Olango’s sister had called them.

She told dispatch that he was not himself and that he was sick and needed help.  

Officers found Alfred Olango behind a downtown restaurant in a parking lot and within moments police killed him.

Alfred Olango was a 38-year old African American male. He pointed a vape smoking device at officers in such a way that it appeared to them he had a weapon. It is unclear if his sister told dispatch if he was armed or not, didn’t know or if dispatch passed that information onto the responding officers.

This shooting has set off yet another wave of debate, sparking protests in the San Diego suburb. It has become a new hot button in the ongoing saga with regards to deadly encounters between police and people with mental illnesses.

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This shooting like the last two are leaving many wondering if law enforcement is too quick to respond with a bullet, are they ill trained, or do they just not care?

One question I usually ask people who are quick to condemn the police for a shooting is “have you ever been in a live shooter situation?” It’s a simple yes or no answer right? Wrong, I always get the “Well if it were me…” answer.

The problem is, the answer is not so simple. Police literally have a split second to size the situation up and to react. Police are not usually called to any situation where they can offer a more “proactive” approach.

They get called when a situation has become one that warrants a reactive response.

A month or so ago I saw a story I want to say out of a small town in Florida. A man was sitting outside of a local Walgreen’s with a gun or rifle. The police were able to successfully talk him down. What was later revealed was that the weapon was not loaded and the man was in fact, mentally ill.

So at first glance we all read the story and think “wow, those cops are amazing, they did not shoot first” but…I later learned that they somehow found out the weapon was not loaded so they negotiated with the man instead of shooting him when he failed to put the weapon down.

The headline made it seem that the situation was something that it was not and it was delivered that way to make the local cops look like heroes, which they are for getting the man help but had they not known the gun was not loaded, the situation may have played out way differently.

Are we expecting too much from law enforcement?

I always try to answer this with two answers, yes and no.

Police can’t read minds or know what the person in front of them is truly thinking. They have a split second to think about it. They are trained to react.

Many people say and to an extent I agree with them, we have gone too far in terms of training cops to react to situations, they need to learn better to react to individuals rather than to a situation because that might change the outcome of some situations.

Yet we as a society, well we do expect police to just know when to shoot and when not to shoot, regardless of whether or not the suspect has a weapon, acts like or pretends to have a weapon.

A bigger issue is, are they getting enough details from dispatch? Do they always know when they are responding to a situation where someone might be experiencing a mental illness? Do they know if the individual is armed or not?

We also have to look at our own expectations and the world that we currently live in.

We need to take into account that it is impossible to expect police to not react to situations that they deem dangerous. We live in a world with too many variables and quite frankly police don’t always know what they are walking into.

Anyone suffering from any type of mental illness may or may not be on medication or worse self medicating. He or she may be on medication but mixing it with alcohol or illegal drugs. He or she may mixing medication with other prescribed medications, they have have taken too much or too little medication.

He or she may be a lone wolf extremist who is hell bent on killing. They may end up facing someone who is unwilling to go to jail so they’d rather get into a shootout with police, it could also be a young teen who has a problem with authority in general.

It’s not feasible to expect police to know all of this when rolling into a situation and not react. It’s not like on TV or in the movies, they really do only get a split second.

None of that means that police don’t need better training, they need to learn to react less quickly, learn to use non-lethal force when needed, police nationwide are getting training to better equip them to deal with the mentally ill but are they using that training enough?

Yet even that training will not cover all of the different scenarios they encounter.

Each side has a story, but society isn’t really hearing the story.

When protesters resort to looting, shooting, rioting, killing, violence and screaming in the face of police, we see and hear you but we don’t hear or see your cause, story or what you hope to accomplish.

The media, parents and loved ones who have lost someone to an officer involved shooting have sometimes not been entirely truthful about who the deceased really was, too reluctant to face reality, they are too quick to condemn the police long before they have even part of the facts let alone half of them. Even after that they still call the shooting unjustified.

For law enforcement, far too often they are too quick to defend the actions of officers and are not being transparent enough. Too many times problem officers are allowed to continually slide and keep jobs when they shouldn’t.

Law enforcement does not have a standard in terms of making sure the police they have are still good cops after years on the job. Nor do they have a standard to ensure they are not bias against anyone and/or desensitized to crimes or victims.

The point is, in general many in society no longer trust police to have their backs. Many see them as militant, abusive, ruthless, unkind, they let the job go to their heads, they put themselves on a pedestal, they feel that they can do no wrong, cover for each other, departments cover for bad cops and they are too eager to shoot black individuals, suspects or not. 

So while no one is being heard, we still face the same issues and we are getting nowhere.

No more hiding behind the badge…

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No more hiding behind excusing criminal behavior because of race or past mistreatment.

It is time for law enforcement and the communities they serve to come together and just hear each other, compromise and solve the issues that they each face.

Until then, let’s hope for more peaceful meaningful protests throughout the U.S.

Cristal M Clark

IOS users can find The Crime Shop on Apple News

@thecrimeshop

Police shootings – to react violently is the answer

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Or is it?

I read an article today with a headline that read “Maybe violence is the answer.”

The piece was about the recent violent protests in Charlotte, NC because officers shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott and the decision in Tulsa to prosecute officer Betty Shelby who shot and killed Terence Crutcher.

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The article was well thought out and well written and it even made some really valid points.

I was shocked by it however, I must admit because it was rather suggestive. 

I do not believe that reacting in a violent manner will win this battle, I also do not believe that it is warranted. People’s lives who, are not cops paid the price for the violent reaction in Charlotte. Store and shop owners paid the price, people who had a car parked in the wrong place at the wrong time paid the price.

I also do not believe that the decision in Tulsa had much to do with the violent reaction from Charlotte that was splashed all over TV networks. They were two different decisions, in two different cities and in two different states, that police the communities they serve, differently.

Two different cities who also had two entirely different takes on whether or not to release the video they had, some or all, didn’t matter. One city was for it, the other didn’t really want to.

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I worked for a number of years with the Arvada, Colorado Police Department. For the most part they have really good cops on the force. Citizens love the police in that town.

That department as a whole however is really quite successful in terms of its relationship with the community that is serves.

They had a problem with a group of officers once. They resolved that problem really, really quickly. Those problem cops, they didn’t end up working for the department after the issue.

You tend to see that throughout quite a few towns in Colorado. Police seem to have found the niche for being able to maintain the delicate balance between law and order and developing long standing strong relationships with the communities they serve.

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A Denver Police Department car. denver; colorado; denverite; police; cops; kevinjbeaty

Even I will from time to time if something pops up on my radar report on an issue any of those departments may be facing or have faced. I do it to highlight that for some departments the issues they face are small if you looked at the grand scheme of things and those problems if you were so inclined to study them are pretty minor and far and few.

Now take a look at the Oakland, California Police department and its history, they seem to have no issue letting things go until the Feds have to step in. The same with Chicago.

Different departments, different leadership and different ways of handling problems.

And it does make a difference.

I get that people of color are fed up, hell many whites get it, and guess what, we are just as fed up. We are on your side, but trying to make the whole of today’s white society pay for what a cop did or what the whites of generations past did long ago is quite ignorant.

We can only fix the future, not the past.

It makes no sense to make today’s world pay for a past none of us, had a hand in dealing out. And by us, that means all of here in america.

Isn’t our species trying to evolve past the need to react to a situation as if we are animals who cannot think past violent behavior?

I keep seeing a lot of talk going around about this, from congress to neighbors, I’m just not seeing it being put into action yet.

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Why are we not reacting the same way as the citizens of Chicago gun each other down or is that still eh-okay? Is it easier to justify a citizen killing another citizen/child who may or may not have had a gun? It’s just ok?

It is just as bad as a cop shooting someone.

Throughout history violence was always the answer, always. It’s how wars were won, it’s how slaves became free, it’s how religious leaders converted non-believers.

Did winning really win a whole lot?

Today’s generations are less likely to believe in any religion let alone practice it, black’s are still facing issues with racism and oppression, we may have won wars but what did we really end up with? Land if we were lucky, but mostly just bragging rights and debt.

The question is, is being a society that reacts to violence with violence truly who we are today?

We still feel that violence is the way?

Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

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I find it funny, our nation as a whole, for the vast majority of citizens, doesn’t matter what race they are, balk at the violence in the middle east, which is now spreading across Europe.

That violence is largely due to sectarian, different religious views and ideals. Not to mention oppression, rejection, meaning other countries and/or societies treat those from the middle east as lesser than they themselves are…and many no longer want to take in refugees from certain places because, we have decided they are all bad, evil and so much less than we are.

Those Islamic terrorists, they justify their violent tactics and behaviors through interpreting the Quran and Hadith according to their own goals and intentions.

In a way, when you think about it, our violent reactions to what is happening in our own country is sort of the same.

We react violently sometimes and in some cases, against innocent individuals because of our own personal goals and intentions.

Using violence to fight police shooting and police use of force is a dangerous game that neither player will win.

Cristal M Clark

IOS users can find The Crime Shop on Apple News

@thecrimeshop

*Updated September 22, 2016 U.S. Department of Justice – Police stop shooting unarmed black men

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Charlotte, NC – Tulsa, Oklahoma – Police Shooting Unarmed Citizens

Enough is enough

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If anyone caught the footage of Terence Crutcher’s shooting from Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma it was pretty disturbing. I watched it half a dozen times in disbelief of what I was seeing. I honestly could not believe it.

Terence who was a pastor had a stalled vehicle, he was unarmed and did not have a weapon in his SUV.

I’ve seen multiple headlines pop up with regards to why the police shot him, in fact one headline stated he was shot because the officer thought he was on PCP.

The cop who shot him backs that headline up…what the???

Is that what cops are trained to do these days? Shoot anyone you suspect is on drugs or is it just African Americans you think are on drugs?

I was left with a sense that I was watching predators circle the prey and then go in for the kill.

Imagine what he must have felt or thought in those last moments of his life.

Confused, not able to understand why he was being surrounded by police, not able to think clearly because he was trying to process what in the hell was going on, then he was shot and killed.

Was that necessary or does it prove the point that African American’s are trying so hard to get a across? In no way, shape or form am I saying that all police and all police departments are like this, I’ve said it before, I know they are not, but come on the guy was unarmed and confused or disoriented.

*Update – As of September 22, 2016 Officer Berry Shelby has been charged with Manslaughter for the senseless shooting of Terence. What’s more is that she has changed her story from she “thought he was on PCP” to she “thought he had a gun.”

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Then we had the shooting from Chrarlotte, NC, where Keith Lamont Scott was waiting in his car for his son.  The police say that he was armed, his family says that he was not. We don’t know enough about that case to draw a solid conclusion, yet.

If things played out the same way that they did when police confronted and fatally shot Terence Crutcher, regardless of whether or not Keith Lamont Scott had a gun, it would be easy to better understand why or how Keith might not have complied with orders, trying to process what is happening, confused and disoriented about what was happening as multiple cops rushed him, circling around him like prey.

The Black Lives Matter Movement started back in 2012 over the shooting of Treyvon Martin. It grew with each shooting that happened after of unarmed African American males. They have asked for sweeping changes, some are a little outrageous but they ask and…

It seems like the U.S. Department of Justice and police departments nationwide are taking this back seat, we’ll fix it when something bad happens approach.

That is not good enough. It’s also not working.

I have heard countless stories of police treating African Americans differently than whites, in fact the director of the FBI mentioned it last year and more or less shrugged it off as if that’s just the way it is like it or not.

Well it’s not ok and people are pretty tired of seeing these shootings. Are officers no longer taught how to de-escalate and defuse intense situations or are we just shooting unarmed African American men these days because the officer “thinks” the guy is on PCP? Are officers taught to encircle a man not even a suspect at this point as if he is prey that they intend to kill?

I ask because point blank that is exactly what the Terence Crutcher video looks like.

I’ve stuck up for police and a lot of the shootings, I have come down pretty damn hard on the Black Lives Matter Movement because instead of peaceful protests they have gotten out of hand, they’ve made some pretty un-doable requests and I know deep down that not all police departments or cops are bad,  but enough is enough.

2012, since 2012 people have been begging for changes to be made and it’s not happening until someone is shot and killed. That individual didn’t have an investigation before being shot and killed, no one defended them or the actions he took or the way he behaved as he felt threatened by police, he was just killed.

Think about it, as a cop if you feel threatened you react, what do you think these citizens felt?

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The Department of Justice has had enough time to study the issues both the police and the public face, they have had enough time to consider sweeping changes, they have also had enough time to implement those changes.

The problem with having the DOJ police it’s own is that it takes too long, they him-haw around, waste taxpayer dollars and the changes they choose to implement cost the taxpayers even more in the long run not to mention that some changes take years and years to implement.

Well, that isn’t the answer and it’s not good enough anymore.

If the United States Department of Justice can’t police it’s own as they so clearly have shown and put into place some positive changes and reform, then the United States Government needs to hand that project off to someone who will come in and make the sweeping changes that are so desperately needed where they are needed.

Cristal M Clark

IOS users can find The Crime Shop on Apple News

@thecrimeshop