Thursday, June 22, 2017

Call 911

Seattle is in the 6th year of debating use of force and the Judicial oversight that was to place body cams on the force and that still has not happened thanks to the Police Union.  And while the use of force has declined thanks to the Judicial Oversight set by the Courts there is still work to be done.

Under the new Administration of Forrest Trump the use of Federal Justice oversight will come to an end and clearly it shows that with or without it there is little change.  And you complain about the Teacher's Union.  Have any Teachers killed any kids lately?

Seattle Police Shooting May Show Limits of Crisis Training


SEATTLE — On a weekday afternoon in March, Seattle police officers fenced off a city block as they tried to persuade a suicidal man in the middle of a downtown street to drop a knife.

Pedestrians were cleared, traffic was rerouted, and more than two hours later, the man surrendered — without injury to himself or anyone else.

It was a textbook case in how police can calm volatile situations, and it reflected the extensive emphasis the department has placed on crisis intervention training under a 2012 settlement with the Justice Department.

By contrast, Sunday's fatal shooting of a pregnant mother, who police say was armed with two knives, after she called in a burglary at her apartment illustrates the potential limits of such training.

It also threatens to undermine the strides Seattle police have made in regaining public trust since a series of troubling events, including the unnecessary killing of a Native American woodcarver by an officer in 2010, prompted the DOJ's investigation.

Two officers, one a specialist in handling people in crisis, responded to the burglary. They knew the woman, Charleena Lyles, had struggled with mental illness and earlier this month had menaced police with metal shears in her apartment. But they nevertheless found themselves with little time to react when she suddenly snapped about two minutes after they began taking her report.

"If the officer has time, space and cover, they have more options than using deadly force, but that's not necessarily going to be the case," said Sue Rahr, a former sheriff and the executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. "The suddenness of the threat in some cases precludes de-escalation."

The killing has prompted outrage among many, including Lyles' family, who questioned why the officers couldn't use nonlethal methods to subdue the diminutive 30-year-old and suggested that race played a role. Lyles was black; the officers, identified as Steven McNew, a 34-year-old who joined the force in 2008, and Jason Anderson, 32, who joined in 2015, were white.

Neither officer had a stun gun, but they did have other options, either a baton or pepper spray. Like all Seattle officers, both had crisis intervention training, and McNew had volunteered for additional training to become a certified crisis intervention specialist.

In April 2011, McNew was one of three officers who received a commendation from their patrol sergeant for how they responded to a suicidal person armed with a knife.

Hundreds of people turned out for a protest march Tuesday night, and responses from the city's mayoral candidates after Lyles was killed included calls for improved mental health systems, further changes in police training and demands for transparency in the shooting's investigation.

James Bible, a lawyer for the Lyles family, noted that on an audio recording released by police, one officer asks the other to "Tase" Lyles, but the other responds that he doesn't have one. If they had time to discuss that, they weren't in immediate danger, Bible insisted.

"She's actually the one to dial 911 and ... she ends up dead on the floor in front of her children," he told the crowd Tuesday night. "The system in Seattle is responsible to wealthy white people but not the rest of us. And that's why we have to say, once again, murder is murder is murder is murder."

Two officers, rather than one, responded to take Lyles' burglary report because of her prior history with police. According to audio recordings released by police, the encounter Sunday was calm and professional for about the first two minutes: Lyles allowed them into her northeast Seattle apartment and told them someone had taken a video game console.

Suddenly, though, a confrontation erupted. There are sounds of rapid movement, the woman yelling "Get ready, (expletive)!" and the police radioing for help and repeatedly warning her to get back before five shots are fired.

Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a Seattle police spokesman, said Wednesday that officers are trained to focus on "time, distance and shielding" in protecting themselves and others from a threat: "What is my need to intervene at this very moment? What is my sense of urgency? How close am I and how close do I need to be?"

That doesn't mean the officers shouldn't have entered Lyles' apartment to investigate the burglary, he said.

"Everything's normal, the officers are acting appropriately, taking her info," Whitcomb said. "This is your right as someone who lives in the city: If you're the victim of a crime the police will come out and investigate. Just because someone has interaction with the criminal justice system one day doesn't mean they're deprived of service the next day."

Whitcomb said the department is "grieving for her children and her family" and struggling with the notion that earlier mental health or other support for Lyles, a pregnant mother of four who had been a victim of domestic violence, might have prevented what happened.

Lyles had been in counseling, with and without her children, and she had obtained housing last year after fighting homelessness for a decade, court records indicate.

"There will be a thorough investigation," Whitcomb said. "We'll continue being transparent. Nothing absolves us from how this ended. Our goal is to get to the truth."

And this brings me to the issue of calling Police when an individual is suffering a mental health crisis. They are not trained licensed mental health care professionals.  They are law enforcement not rescue crews nor should they go to any scene where this is an issue.  From Domestic Violence to Suicide the Police are the last people who need to be there and should only be back up to those individuals skilled in the area of conflict resolution. 

I use my own recent experience to this and to say I was scared shitless was one, to say I was angry was another.  When I recount that I have had few here agree with me that it was unnecessary or overkill. They all remind me that I used the expression "blow my brains out."  When I point out that they showed up 4 days AFTER my rant in the dental office they go, "Well at least they cared."  Yes if they cared they would have actually dealt with it at that time, by getting me to a mental health counselor or calling the cops that minute to restrain me in the office! If I was truly that of a risk I think waiting 4 days to send Cops who arrived at 7 am when I could have already left for work, was getting ready for work or even making breakfast with knifes puts me in a position of risk.  Interesting to resolve the issue that I may be at risk they put me in it. And if I was they didn't exactly get right on that.  So not that big of risk I guess!  But that encounter has changed me in relation to the Dental office.  As for expressing myself no.  But to whom I let my guard down is few and none in between.  That is what really puts one at risk - social isolation.  But I had to choose that to move on and survive here in Nashvile. 

But  it goes with the idea that two well armed and suited men could not extricate themselves from a situation where a woman is brandishing a knife is laughable.  Oddly two men died walking towards a man brandishing a knife and they had no training, no weapons only their willingness to aid others. 

We have had Police here and in England stabbed and have survived and these are injuries sustained by determined individuals who want to kill.   So a mentally ill broad really you are that afraid?

I know of Ms. Lyles she has three children and I am almost certain I taught one of them.  I recall a little girl who  was living with her Grandmother or Aunt (that I cannot recall which) who informed me she was Bi-Polar and that her Mother was.  I immediately informed her that all kids are at some point (have you met 13 year olds?) and I laughed and said that is why I don't have kids!  And that without her Mother here to explain about her illness and her care she should not be repeating this as it can lead to misunderstandings and confusion.  She was a very troubled young girl not in SPED but should have been and due to the lack of Parental guidance and health care I struggled to find ways to help her make it though the Semester.  I as always do just pass them with the bare minimum and hope that the cracks don't become any bigger.  (They do but it is just the reality of being a Teacher in public schools - denial.)

I had many children of similar backgrounds and stories as homelessness is a raging problem in the Seattle area.  As a Teacher you a given only the basic information and unless they are on an IEP and in Special Ed they receive no services so accommodation becomes one of a matter of a Teacher's choice and that is not always easy as the last thing you want to do is draw attention to that and make exceptions for a child who does not want to be exceptional.  I had another Student who was and he was well liked, popular and charming. I never worried about him nor felt that his work load was any different than the rest of the class.  I am not big on homework in general and preferred kids to read and if there was  major project I used class time to enable them to use school resources as tools to complete and that yes homework might have to be done but it was optional.  This is not a popular position but that is why I remained a Sub as I had that out.  But living here in Nashville I just want out and never to set foot in their schools again as here the cracks are chasms. 

The children who witnessed their Mothers murder will not recover.  She was Pregnant and that child died that day. Funny how those against Abortion want to charge Women with a crime if they elect that as a means to resolve their pregnancy are the same people who want Medicaid cut that provides health care and moderate mental health and are the same people who want to reduce funding to Planned Parenthood that could counsel and care for women and provide birth control to prevent unplanned Pregnancies and of course the whole issue of housing as this family was living in transitional housing that did not have the resources needed to provide mental health care for a woman with a history of problems.   This Simba is the circle of life for the poors.

Charleena Lyles Needed Health Care. Instead, She Was Killed.


On Sunday morning, two Seattle police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles in her apartment. She was pregnant, and three of her four children were home. She had called the police to report a burglary. According to the officers’ account, shortly after they arrived, Ms. Lyles, who the police knew was mentally ill, pulled a knife. Both officers shot her. Societal failure to care for mental health, which leaves the police as mental illness first responders, may well have been one deadly ingredient in this tragic encounter.

According to her family and police records, Ms. Lyles wrestled with significant mental health issues. An audiotape reveals officers discussing her police and mental health history immediately before the shooting. Seattle Police Department officers had been called to her residence more than 20 times before this Sunday, with mental illness often figuring in those encounters. The department had placed an officer caution on her address for this reason, meaning officers should be on alert for dangerous behavior from her. Despite repeated previous mental health referrals and the involvement of Child Protective Services, she was alone with her children on Sunday, in distress and with nowhere to turn but 911.

Ms. Lyles’s situation is not unique. People with untreated mental illnesses are disproportionately likely to attract police attention. The combination of mental illness, racial segregation and poverty is particularly likely to result in police contact, often leading to arrest. In fact, a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics study revealed that 24 percent of state prisoners report a history of mental illness, with other sources reporting rates in some larger facilities as high as 70 percent. But it was not always the case that mental illness would result in the cycle of catch and release that evidently plagued Ms. Lyles.

What changed over the past half-century is that the United States has seen a stunning decline in resources devoted to public mental health — during the same time the nation adopted mass incarceration. A 2009 International Association of Chiefs of Police review reported that the available hospital beds for persons suffering from mental illness dropped by 95 percent from 1955 to 2005, to 17 beds per 100,000 persons from 340. From 1985 to 2005, the nation’s incarceration rate tripled.

The shift away from hospital treatment of mental illness was not matched by an offsetting commitment to fund the health care people needed to live on the outside. Medicaid reimbursement rates are so low that it is difficult to find providers who will accept it. As a result, many people with mental illness are functionally uninsured for their most urgent health care needs. That is, state support for mental health retreated at the same time state investment in incarceration exploded — and both with disastrous results for vulnerable communities.

The consequence of the disinvestment in public mental health has also not affected all vulnerable communities equally. African-American people are at least as likely as white people to experience mental health distress but are half as likely to receive mental health treatment. This helps to explain why it’s easy to recall other high-profile cases of police use of deadly force involving black victims with documented histories of mental illness.

To be sure, the disproportionate rate of law enforcement violence against African-Americans has a host of contributing factors, including racial bias, both implicit and explicit. There is most likely no single explanation for the tragedy that occurred when Seattle Police Department officers shot and killed Ms. Lyles. But in her case and others like it, the failure of public mental health services appears to have been one important ingredient in a mix of forces that ultimately proved deadly. Without this failure, Sunday’s encounter might never have occurred.

If we are to protect families in similar situations, we must extend the lens of our concern beyond police-community interactions — even in cases where the police pull the trigger. A reinvestment in public mental health resources — including hospitals and, yes, better health care coverage for vulnerable Americans struggling with mental illness — are urgent necessities.

Of course, the cure for these too frequent police-involved shootings must include serious changes within law enforcement. But we must also recommit to changing how we manage mental health if we are to reduce the chances that illness will be treated with gunshots. It is what we owe to Ms. Lyles and to the children who survive her.

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