Paul R Lehman, BBC News report shows some American police unable to serve the mentally ill

October 27, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Community relationships, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, Disrespect, education, equality, European American, justice, language, life, Oklahoma, police force, respect, social justice system, tolerance | 1 Comment
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In early October, the BBC News aired a show entitled “Don’t Shoot, I’m disabled” with journalist Aleem Maqbool that featured police officers and other law enforcement representatives. Whatever the show’s objective was, the results underscored the ignorance, insensitivity, and irrationality of law enforcement in three specific American cities: Milwaukee, Frederick County, and Oklahoma City.

In the first incident, we learn that three West Milwaukee police officers broke into the home of 22-year-old Adam Trammell where they found “him naked and  bewildered standing in his bathtub as water from the shower ran down his body.” The police presence at Adam’s home was due to a neighbor calling 911 and reporting that she had seen Adam, whom she called Brandon, walking naked in the corridor, talking about the devil. Adam’s father, Larry Trammell, said that Adam often experienced delusions and hallucinations. He noted that taking a shower helped Adam calm down when he felt ill-at-ease. When the police tried to confront Adam, they saw that he was not armed nor was he acting in a threatening manner. However, he did not respond to their commands to leave the shower. They referred to him as Brandon, not Adam.

At this point, most reasonable people would process the information they had about this situation and realize that Adam did not respond to the officers’ command because he was not in a normal frame of mind. For the officers to proceed in a manner they viewed as normal when their commands were not followed showed ignorance. The events that followed underscore their lack of concern and compassion for a fellow human being: “The officers then fired their Tasers at him 15 times, administering long, painful electric shocks as he screamed and writhed in the bathtub. Then more officers arrived, and after dragging him, still naked, from his apartment, they held him down and he was injected with sedatives – midazolam at first, and then ketamine.”Shortly afterward Adam stopped breathing and was taken to a hospital where he was dead on arrival. All of the police action was captured on an officer-worn camera on May 25, 2017.

After Adam’s death, the police said that they broke into Adam’s home to help him and that their actions towards him were to restrain him and get him medical help. Nothing coming near rational thinking on their part could be ascertained from the video. To add insult to injury Milwaukee’s District Attorney John Chisholm went so far as to rule that “there was no basis to conclusively link Mr. Trammell’s death to the actions taken by the police officers.” No media attention was made of this story and no officers faced prosecution.

In another case, a 26-year-old man with Down’s syndrome, Ethan Saylor, was watching the movie Zero Dark Thirty in a Frederick County, Maryland cinema with his carer. Ethan fashioned himself as a CIA agent after a character in the film. After the movie, Ethan wanted to view it again, but his carer told him that they had to leave. They walked out of the theater, but not out of the building. When the carer went to get the car, Ethan went back into the theater and the same seat he had occupied before. The three off-duty police security officers heard that someone was in the cinema without purchasing a ticket. They went in and found Ethan. The carer had gotten the car and did not realize that Ethan had gone back inside the cinema. After confronting Ethan about his presence in the cinema without a ticket, they asked him to leave. Ethan told them that he was a CIA agent and would not leave.

At this point, any reasonable person recognizing that Ethan was a Downs syndrome person would have realized that they would have to use another approach in trying to communicate with Ethan. However, the officers put their arms under Ethan’s arms and tried to lift him out of the seat. He cried for his mother but was removed from the theater arrested, handcuffed and restrained. In a short matter of time, Ethan was on the floor face down and not breathing. He subsequently died. His mother, Patti, thought that he had died from some unexplained medical complication, but an autopsy report indicated that his death was a homicide from asphyxiation.

Patti believed that had Ethan been able to respond to the officers’ command he would still be alive, but questioned why officers would intervene physically someone with Down’s syndrome. Officers again showed a lack of information regarding the treatment of a person not in control of his normal or natural reasonable ability but proceeded to treat him as though he was normal. Their actions showed their lack of knowledge and compassion for someone with a mental condition.

The third incident involved law enforcement from Oklahoma City. On September 19, 2017, the police confronted Magdiel Sánchez, a 35-years-old man who was on the porch of his home. The police believed that he was carrying a weapon and did not drop it when they shouted commands for him to do so. During the confrontation with Sánchez, a neighbor shouted to the officers that Sánchez was deaf. Evidently, Sánchez did not hear the police commands. None-the-less, he was shot and killed. He had been holding a small section of piping and was ordered to drop it.

Oklahoma City Police Chief, Bill Citty defended the police action: “Nobody disputes neighbours were yelling that he was deaf,” then added that “He [Sánchez} understood that they were police officers. That’s why we wear uniforms.” In essence, Citty did not accept the fact that Sánchez was deaf and had learning difficulties as a reason for his behavior. According to Citty, his officers were in fear of being hit with the pipe and acted in self-defense. He noted that “It’s our job to be able to respond to situations in a manner which creates the best outcome.” One might as the question whose best outcome? Certainly, it was not the best for Sánchez.

Maqbool, the reporter, road along with Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Corey Nooner who related to him an incident 15 years ago where he shot and killed a woman with schizophrenia. According to Maqbool, “Nooner says that given the same circumstances today, he would do exactly the same thing. ‘I have to make sure I go home to my family at night.” Nooner admitted that he was angered by the suggestion that police may be too ready to use lethal force. The question remains, so why are so many disabled people killed by the police?

If we are to follow the focus of the BBC News story, the answer to the question is ignorance, or a lack of education regarding the mentally ill; insensitivity or a lack of compassion and a failure to see the mentally ill as human being with some difficulties; irrationality, or a lack of reason

other than for the safety and well-being of the police, not the citizen. More training, however, is not an answer, but more and better education could help. The chances are little to none that many Americans saw this story, but rest assured that all of Europe with access to the BBC News saw it.

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1 Comment »

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  1. Totally frustrating! We should sic Michael Avenatti on them all.


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