Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Police and the Mentally Ill

The Fullerton Police Department is charged with the enforcement of local, state, and federal laws, and with providing around-the-clock protection of the lives and property of the public. The Police Department functions both as an instrument of public service and as a tool for the distribution of information, guidance and direction.

It is the mission of the Police Department to facilitate and administer the laws of governing bodies, the orders of the courts, and to direct all energies and resources toward maintaining the health, welfare and safety of citizens.

For good reason, police officers operate in a heightened state of awareness in order to protect themselves and be ready to respond to a dangerous situation. Most of my interactions with police give me the impression that they are courteous and polite, quite happy to engage in conversation, while "keeping their guard up."

However, at least 10% of my interactions reveal aggressive, angry and unstable people who lack the ability to "read" people. These individuals weild deadly force and have the authority to use it. You can only imagine how quickly a situation can get out of control when this kind of officer interacts with a mentally ill individual who is not going to respond quickly to commands, behave erratically, resist and attempt to flee.

Unfortunately, the recent reports of Fullerton police beating to death a mentally ill man is an all too common example of this interaction.

My heart aches when I heard the victim was crying out for his father over and over as he was being beaten to death by 5 police officers.

What will be the response by Fullerton city officials or police chief Michael Sellers?

"I have always told my Officers that we have three jobs. Our first step is to save lives. When lives are not at stake, our next job is to protect life. When that's not an issue, our job is to help improve the quality of life for our citizens, and that is done through community-oriented policing." - Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers

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