The Way We Live Now: ‘Policing’ the Mentally Ill


The NYTimes, “Police Confront Rising Number of Mentally Ill Suspects”:

ALBUQUERQUE — James Boyd, a homeless man camping in the Sandia Foothills here, could hear the commands of the police officers who were trying to move him out.

The problem was that Mr. Boyd, 38, had a history of mental illness, and so was living in a different reality, one in which he was a federal agent and not someone to be bossed around.

“Don’t attempt to give me, the Department of Defense, another directive,” he told the officers. A short while later, the police shot and killed him, saying he had pulled out two knives and threatened their lives.

The March 16 shooting, captured in a video taken with an officer’s helmet camera and released by the Albuquerque Police Department, has stirred protests and some violence in Albuquerque and prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin an inquiry into the death. But it has also focused attention on the growing number of people with severe mental disorders who, in the absence of adequate mental health services, are coming in contact with the criminal justice system, sometimes with deadly consequences.

In towns and cities across the United States, police officers find themselves playing dual roles as law enforcers and psychiatric social workers. County jails and state prisons have become de facto mental institutions; in New York, for instance, a surge of stabbings, beatings and other violence at Rikers Island has been attributed in part to an influx of mentally ill inmates, who respond erratically to discipline and are vulnerable targets for other prisoners. “Frequent fliers,” as mentally ill inmates who have repeated arrests are known in law enforcement circles, cycle from jail cells to halfway houses to the streets and back.

The problem has gotten worse in recent years, according to mental health and criminal justice experts, as state and local governments have cut back on mental health services for financial reasons. And with the ubiquity of video cameras — both in ordinary citizens’ hands and on police officer’s helmets and in cruisers — the public can more readily see what is going on and respond…

Many police departments have put in place training for officers in how to deal with mentally ill people, teaching them to defuse potentially volatile situations and to treat people who suffer from psychiatric illnesses with respect. But officers can sometimes make a crisis worse, either out of fear or in a reflexive effort to control the situation and enforce compliance.

Although no agency or organization tracks the number of police shootings nationally that involve people with mental illnesses, a report by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriff’s Association, based on informal studies and accounts, estimated that half the number of people shot and killed by the police have mental health problems…

It’s a worthy article, and it cannot be pointed out often enough that ‘deinstitutionalization’, as a money-saving tactic, is not only a brutal and frequently deadly cruelty to the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens, it’s penny-wise and pound-foolish. But there’s two more common factors of this cruel new century that the article skims around the edges.

First, of course, is the ubiquity of street-level recording devices; it’s nearly impossible for a suspect to “be injured resisting arrest” or “suffer self-inflicted wounds while in custody” without some dumb machine or clever bystander recording the brutal truth. This is entirely a good thing, IMO.

Second, and this is not a good thing, is that our post-9/11 militarization of every local police force has magnified, and justified, the us-against-them “law enforcement” mindset where armored gunslingers ride through a hellscape in which every non-uniformed individual is just an evildoer waiting to erupt into violence. (Look on the pic at the top and try not to think of a video game.) We have got to roll back on the toxic “thin blue line” idiocy, which only encourages the worst-qualified individuals to put on a uniform as an excuse to hurt people who can’t fight back.

75 replies
  1. 1

    We don’t have a large population of mentally ill homeless in our county. The cops have shot quite a few of them, keeping the numbers down, and will continue to do so as long as we have any homeless folks at all. It seems most of the local citizenry aren’t too bothered about it, even though the cops occasionally shoot them for fun as well.

  2. 2
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    it’s penny-wise and pound-foolish.

    The hallmark of the insidious disease known as Reaganism.

  3. 3
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Also, too:

    in a reflexive effort to control the situation and enforce compliance.


  4. 4
    The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    I deal with this population every day. I cannot begin to convey the misery I watch families go through, struggling to deal with sometimes violent, frantic, psychologically wounded individuals with NO help whatsoever. I’ve seen the situation end in death and despair more times than I can count.

  5. 5
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The hallmark of the insidious disease known as Reaganism.

    This. A thousand times, this.

    Also, beware of enterprises that require animals to wear face shields.

  6. 6

    The hallmark of the insidious disease known as Reaganism.

    @Villago Delenda Est: You can always tell when a policy was created by the brain trust of God Emperor Ronaldous Pompadourus Reagan when it does the absolute maximum amount of damage possible to an utterly helpless group of people who have no defenses whatsoever.

    Bullying on steroids.

  7. 7
    Paul in KY says:

    I wish our police departments weren’t such wussies. I can understand the danger when someone has a knife & you are engaged in hand to hand combat with them. This shooting of fucked up individuals, holding a butter knife, because they might throw it 40 ft ninja-style & it go thru a crack in your kevlar armour is counter-productive (at best).

    You just end up with the same kind of bad PR that the idiot Arabs get when they blow up a school bus (never attacking a defended military installation).

    Bottom line, there are too many physical cowards in law enforcement.

  8. 8
    NotMax says:

    Bull Connor is not a role model.

    The more layers of gear the police put on, the further estranged from the general populace they become.

  9. 9
    celticdragonchick says:


    The cops have shot quite a few of them…

    Or beat them to death…on camera…and still manage to avoid convictions, natch.

    I have to really, really agree with Maggie at The Honest Courtesan (she is a retired sex worker) when she says that freedom is a “worship word” in American but that we don’t really mean it. America is a deeply authoritarian society, and social stratification is enforced by police violence. Generic white America loves to see blood on police batons so long as the blood belongs to people that generic white America doesn’t like: Occupy demonstrators, random people of color in a parking lot, the homeless, you get the picture.

    This has been the case as long as we have had organized police. read about what happened to female garment workers in New York back in the last century who went on strike for better wages and working conditions. The police brutality was so heinous that wives of New York’s 1% actually joined them on the picket lines incognito…while dropping a dime to the police that some of the women in the picket lines had powerful connections…to try and protect the helpless. Lawsuits against the police for multiple broken bones and maiming were all dismissed on the grounds that the women were reaching above their natural station. Really.

  10. 10
    gbear says:

    I’ve looked at that photo a couple of times and I still can’t believe that it’s real.

  11. 11
    rikyrah says:

    The police have long been out of control. Glad folks are finally awake to this.

  12. 12
    celticdragonchick says:


    That is the point that Radley Balko has been trying to make. When you dress cops up as stormtroopers from a science fiction movie, give them military weapons and tell them they are warriors on a war footing, you cannot be surprised when they treat the rest of us like a population to be subjugated.

  13. 13

    Or beat them to death…on camera…and still manage to avoid convictions, natch.

    @celticdragonchick: Our DA has had the job for 11 years and finally was forced to prosecute her first cop. She is moving mountains to avoid having to prosecute #2. Seems our local cops have a decades-long hobby of raping women.

    I would like to add that for non-cops, our conviction rate here is 94%. Seems to me you can’t call such a process a “trial.” More like a “rubber stamp.”

  14. 14
    SiubhanDuinne says:


  15. 15
    mai naem says:

    The video of Boyd being killed is disgusting. There were easily a dozen fully suited up cops shooting a guy with a couple of knives? WTF Why couldn’t they have tased him. And it seems like they don’t even attempt to shoot these people in the foot or knee, it’s like they are shooting to kill.

  16. 16
    mai naem says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Actually it’s fuck John Roberts. Roberts is a snake. He knows exactly how to structure a decision so that it favors the powerful and the right wingers. Always the powerful and the right wing. .

  17. 17


    @SiubhanDuinne: Jesus. From the NYT:

    Wednesday’s decision only concerned contributions from individuals. Federal law continues to ban contributions by corporations and unions.

    This Supreme Court has a long game, and I think we’re starting to get a real good look at what it is. I don’t ever want to hear another America make fun of another country’s voting processes again. No matter how corrupt, I can honestly now say ours is just as bad.

  18. 18
    Mnemosyne says:

    This is one of those problems that really would benefit by having some money thrown at it: money for ongoing therapy, money to pay enough psychologists and social workers so their caseloads aren’t too big, money to pay social workers to go out to the various skid rows and form relationships so they can coax people in for treatment, money to have safe residential facilities and halfway houses for people to live, money for psychiatrists and medication and other medical help. But no one wants to do it because it costs a lot of money.

    And, yes, our entire theory of policing is disastrous for this level of untreated mental illness. You are not going to be able to use force and pain to get a mentally ill person to comply because they are unable to comply and follow directions due to their condition.

    I get the feeling that there is a large contingent of cops out there who don’t believe mental illness exists and assumes that people are not complying just to be stubborn or to be jerks, so they double down on physical force and make the situation even worse.

  19. 19
    celticdragonchick says:

    Also, on the subect of police and mentally ill:

    Right here in North Carolina…

    Seventy seconds: That’s how long a North Carolina family says it took for things to go horribly wrong as they sought police help dealing with their mentally ill son.

    Keith Vidal, 18, died Sunday. According to CNN affiliate WECT, he was just shot 1 minute and 10 seconds after a third law enforcement officer showed up at his Brunswick County home.

    The three officers all were from different jurisdictions, and family members say that the third officer — who came from a nearby city — turned what had been an improving situation into an unnecessarily aggressive encounter that ended in their son’s death.

    “There was no reason to shoot this kid,” the teen’s stepfather, Mark Wilsey, told WECT on Monday. “They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help, and they killed my son.”

    The only words spoken by this guy when he walked in?

    “We don’t have time for this.”

    Law enforcement groups naturally backed their murderous brother in blue because the 90m pound teen was holding a small object…a jewlers screwdriver. Holding anything at all is apparently grounds to be shot on sight…like the teen ROTC cadet in Georgia holding a wii game stick fatally discovered last month when he opened the door to an officer who had not even announced herself as law enforcement.

    The detective who shot the schizophrenic teen in NC was indicted in February. I have doubts that he will be convicted, given what we have seen from trials of LE officers who shoot people while they are duty.

    The officer in Georgia who killed the kid with a wii remote in his own front door is still being investigated. The socipaths at are all for her.

    No one will ever have the right words to say, to make you or this situation better. I can only pray for you and your loved ones, hoping you are able to return. You are our sister and no matter what anyone else says, you are a “AGENT OF WRATH”, you bare the sword for a reason. Thank you for your selfless service so far, I hope your recovery is quick, we will be here fighting until you return.

    And another…

    Until people quit carrying around items that look like guns, this will continue, officer had no choice. Move on.

    These are the people in uniform we are dealing with…and they have no problem killing us and our children and then blaming us for it.

  20. 20
    lucslawyer says:

    The inherent brutality of these cops truly became evident when they released the dog on a man who had at least two bullets in him and was incapable of any resistance whatsoever.

  21. 21
    MattF says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Not really true. Deinstitutionalization began as a movement to improve the lives of the mentally ill, by moving them out of institutions and into the community:

    Over time, tt’s become one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ policies because of basic dilemmas about how to deal with mental illness and the gradual impoverishment of the public sphere since the 1960’s. Reaganism certainly didn’t help, but one can make a good argument that the original policy was fatally flawed.

  22. 22
    cmorenc says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The hallmark of the insidious disease known as Reaganism.

    The initial push for de-institutionalizing the mentally ill and preferentially managing them in community health settings was actually originally a progressive-initiated cause which, over time, turned out to be a perversely vulnerable fit for conservative budgetary sensibilities. The harsh fact about the seriously mentally ill population is that de-institutionalized community treatment (as originally envisioned) is an extremely expensive proposition that competes with a huge variety of other budgetary priorities, and so what happened with de-institutionalization is that it facilitated budgetary trimming of caring for the mentally ill at *both* the institutionalized (e.g. state mental hospitals) and deinstitutionalized (community health) ends. The other harsh fact about the seriously mentally ill population is that not just the behavior, but the resource demand on the patients’ families eventually (or not so eventually) becomes unsustainable, and a huge portion of families have no viable choice but to cut the ill family member at least partly loose (in part this is also because they often have only very tenuous control over the mentally ill family member which vanishes as the member intermittently enters a more acute phase).

    It’s too simple to blame the failure of deinstitutionalization on conservatives, though their stingy fiscal/tax attitudes are unquestionably aggravating factors. The problem of humane management of the seriously mentally ill within our society would be a burdensomely expensive proposition even if Congress was full of Bernie Sanders – though we’d be more likely to come up with a merely bad approach in that case instead of a really quite sincerely bad approach.

  23. 23
    celticdragonchick says:


    Our DA has had the job for 11 years and finally was forced to prosecute her first cop. She is moving mountains to avoid having to prosecute #2. Seems our local cops have a decades-long hobby of raping women.

    Funny you should mention that:

    “This person absolutely took something that was as simple as ‘Austin Police – Stop!’ and decided to do everything you see on that video,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a press conference Friday, according to Austin NPR station 90.5 KUT. “And quite frankly she wasn’t charged with resisting. She’s lucky I wasn’t the arresting officer, because I wouldn’t have been as generous. … In other cities there’s cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas,” Acevedo said.

    Not long after that, it became clear that Acevedo had essentially told the public that they should be grateful that all the police officers did was bundle a woman who had been jogging through the streets of Austin into the back of a police car because she crossed against the light, instead of molesting her or charging her with more serious offenses.

    So be fucking grateful that we only smacked you around a bit and threw you in the car for jaywalking…’cause other cops woulda tagged dat ass of yours with a hot beef injection!


  24. 24

    And it seems like they don’t even attempt to shoot these people in the foot or knee, it’s like they are shooting to kill.

    @mai naem: You’re supposed to shoot to kill. If you succeeded with a non-center mass shot it would be due solely to luck.

    I’m firmly of the mindset that a gun is a tool for killing people, and you don’t use tools for things they’re not intended for.

    That being said, there were plenty of ways to deal with that situation, and not a fucking one of them needed anyone to pull a gun out of the holster.

  25. 25
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @mai naem:

    Yes, you’re quite right. I didn’t intend to cast nasturtiums at Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Kagan.

    Betty’s put up a new thread on the McCutcheon decision.

  26. 26
    Roger Moore says:


    I would like to add that for non-cops, our conviction rate here is 94%. Seems to me you can’t call such a process a “trial.” More like a “rubber stamp.”

    Could as easily be the result of a prosecutor who only wants to bring cases to trial when they’re a slam dunk. That happens more than you’d think. Prosecutors are judged by their conviction rate, so they concentrate on easy cases rather than important ones.

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:


    Reaganism certainly didn’t help, but one can make a good argument that the original policy was fatally flawed.

    It depends on what you mean by “the original policy.” I don’t think the general idea of deinstitutionalization was bad for most people — in general, it’s better for people, even mentally ill ones, to be able to be part of a community and a family.

    The fatal flaw was that the plan was aimed at shifting responsibility and costs from the federal government to the states, and state budgets collapsed under the burden.

    Also, there was this interesting little tidbit in that Wikipedia article:

    In 1973, a federal district court ruled in (Souder v. Brennan) that patients in mental health institutions must be considered employees and paid the minimum wage required by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 whenever they performed any activity that conferred an economic benefit on an institution. Following this ruling, institutional peonage was outlawed as evidenced in the Pennsylvania’s Institutional Peonage Abolishment Act of 1973.

    So mental patients used to be forced into unpaid labor like prisoners, and the end of that system was part of what caused deinstitutionalization. Seriously, is there any part of American society that did not/does not require unpaid or seriously underpaid labor? Anywhere?

  28. 28
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, too, I hope BellaQ has a few minutes to stop by this thread since I know she’s pretty active in her state chapter of NAMI.

  29. 29
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Actually, they threaten defendants with decades of prison time and a slew of charges to try and intimidate then into a plea bargain…which is how you get entirely innocent people pleading guilty to bullshit charges rather than gamble on a trial and potentially 50 years in prison. This is what broke the co-founder of Reddit…Aaron Swartz.

  30. 30

    I wonder if the 2nd amendment purists would have been howling if the guy brandished a firearm.

  31. 31
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    It’s true that de-institutionalization was originally a progressive policy designed to improve the lives of people with severe and persistent brain disorders. But the money did not follow the people from the institutions to the community. So it is also not inaccurate to call the current situation yet another

    hallmark of the insidious disease known as Reaganism


    Once people who understood the issues saw that it would take significant cash – that should have been re-allocated to the community treatment as the original design specified – Reaganism killed any possibility of a remedy for that.

    The current shameful reality is that in the US, people with a persistent brain disorder are 3x more likely to be incarcerated than to be hospitalized. That’s an average – it’s quite a bit higher in some states that others. Can you imagine if 3x more people with epilepsy were in jail rather than in treatment? Not a perfect analogy, to be sure. But many of the severe and persistent brain disorders are treatable and sort of manageable with the appropriate housing situation.

  32. 32
    celticdragonchick says:

    Police officer torturing a handcuffed woman with a tazer:

  33. 33

    Seriously, is there any part of American society that did not/does not require unpaid or seriously underpaid labor? Anywhere?

    @Mnemosyne: 1 in 3 denizens (not citizens) of the Roman Empire were slaves. Look at the situation with South American/Mexican immigration here, and Muslims/Africans/Eastern Bloc refugee immigrants in Europe. All “prosperous” societies thrive on the backs of a huge underclass.

  34. 34
    celticdragonchick says:

    @The Ancient Randonneur:

    The 2nd amendment guys have been howling about police abuse for the last 30 years. This is one of those issues that some people on both the left and right tend to get really irate about.

  35. 35
    celticdragonchick says:


    My point exactly, and the social order is maintained with police violence.

    Great essay from 1976 on this by Barbara Ehrenreich:

    The great majority (the working class) must work out of sheer necessity, under conditions set by the capitalists, for the wages the capitalists pay. Since the capitalists make their profits by paying less in wages than the value of what the workers actually produce, the relationship between the two classes is necessarily one of irreconcilable antagonism. The capitalist class owes its very existence to the continued exploitation of the working class. What maintains this system of class rule is, in the last analysis, force. The capitalist class controls (directly or indirectly) the means of organized violence represented by the state – police, jails, etc. Only by waging a revolutionary struggle aimed at the seizure of state power can the working class free itself, and, ultimately, all people.

    This was starkly demonstrated by the police reactions to Occupy. When you challenge the order…you will be punished.

  36. 36
    Roger Moore says:


    Seriously, is there any part of American society that did not/does not require unpaid or seriously underpaid labor? Anywhere?

    Wall Street.

  37. 37
    PurpleGirl says:

    @mai naem: Tazing would not have had any different results. Boyd would have ended up dead anyway when he couldn’t respond or move because of the tazing. The electric jolt from the tazer causes what it essentially a brain storm. The nerves go wild. The person feels pain, muscles can’t move, the mind can’t compute what is happening. No, a tazing would not have changed anything.

  38. 38
    Petorado says:

    @celticdragonchick: We’re approaching the centenary of the Ludlow Massacre when machine guns and national guard were trained on striking miners and their families who were demanding fair treatment from the Rockefellers. Move forward a hundred years and children and families are still caught in the crossfire of public interest versus moneyed interests backed by corrupt governors.

    The irrational violence displayed by heavily armed law enforcement, even with the advantage of vastly superior numbers as in the Albuquerque case, makes it apparent that law enforcement is not immune to the mental health problems that afflict the general population.

  39. 39
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    Well Jay-zus H Keeerist… those cops on horseback in the photo look absolutely farkin’ medieval

    We’re headed back to the 50’s in this country, alrighty… the 1350’s…

    I’m just waiting for some conservative think tank to release a new study, promoting the the economic upside to legalizing slavery, or at the very least, reintroducing serfdom…

  40. 40
    Roger Moore says:

    They overcharge and plea bargain, but they also shy away from challenging prosecutions. That’s a big reason rape, especially acquaintance rape, is underprosecuted; it’s harder to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and that might threaten the prosecutor’s precious conviction rate. I don’t know whether conviction rate or unwillingness to risk relations with the police department is more of a problem with charging police for anything but the most egregious crimes, but I’m sure they both play a role.

  41. 41
    C.V. Danes says:

    Of course, it doesn’t help things that the mentally ill are also increasingly, thanks to the NRA, heavily armed…

  42. 42
    cailte says:

    @MattF: True — but a key component of this move was the establishment of community mental health centers that would provide on-campus and outreach services to the deinstitutionalized. [I worked in one in the early 1970s, and they did good work. It was not uncommon for the police to call the local center to send someone to deal with a mentally ill person who was acting out.] The crime of Reagan was defunding these community mental health centers and leaving this people and their families on their own.

  43. 43
    celticdragonchick says:

    @C.V. Danes:

    They are shooting mentally ill people who are holding plastic spoons in Albuquerque, fer fuck’s sake. That case was settled just last year, I believe. This has gone well beyond blaming the NRA or assault weapons. The police are shooting people who merely posses something made of matter that occupies space.

  44. 44
    dexwood says:

    Albuquerque. My town. I love living here, but hate the corrupt cop culture which has changed so much since the eighties (thanks Ronnie). It is, and has been, sick for a long time. Militarized, steroid-bloated, bullies. They do treat anyone outside of their culture as an enemy, as other. Now, there were some assholes acting out late in Sunday’s protest, who tried to provoke violence, who undermined the purpose of the protest, but they were not typical of the demonstrators. To see cops rolling up, hanging from the sides of military vehicles, clad in green combat uniforms and fully outfitted as for war was truly troubling to so many. I hope for a decision by the DOJ regarding the police department to come soon. A year and a half of investigations seems like enough time.

  45. 45
    dexwood says:

    Worth reading. One of my favorite local writers. Also, the son of actor Vincent Price.

  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MattF: Yeah, but deinstitutionalization done the right way would cost money. Reaganism is all about shifting federal funding from general human needs to the needs of the military-industrial complex, well, except for the actual military personnel, of course, who are utterly expendable.

    Just as he did with energy policy, Reagan’s vile regime fucked up mental health policy through defunding in the name of “balancing the budget” while at the same time throwing bales of benjamins at the MIC.

  47. 47
    Cassidy says:

    @celticdragonchick: The gun fetishists only care if the cop is not letting someone walk around strapped. They still cheer every time a brown person gets their ass kicked by a cop.

  48. 48
    celticdragonchick says:


    Actually, I have seen angry posts at Redstate, The Blaze and Tucker Carlson’s site and elsewhere concerning police abuse against African Americans and Latinos. Some people on the right are walking up to the fact that everybody is a potential target when it comes to police brutality. Unfortunately, the angry people on the right want to blame militarized police on the “libtards” and “Obummer”, and I have spent fruitless hours trying to inform some of them that local and regional police forces have been in this trend line for decades. True, the folks most concerned about guns per se have been at it the longest and that remains their primary concern.

  49. 49
    PurpleGirl says:

    @cailte: There were never enough community centers. The money wasn’t there and communities didn’t want one in their area. NIMBY ruled. Due to extended family experiences, I watched the process closely. The desire to help people was there but the implementation was sorely lacking. (And thank you for having worked in the field, which I also know was hard.)

  50. 50
    Cassidy says:

    @celticdragonchick: Actually, I think we both know that online communities are a minority fraction of ideological populations. Actually, I’ve seen and heard people talk differently. And Actually, anecdata is not reliable. We know you like your guns and believe every cop is just waiting to hurt someone. Neither position is based on sound reasoning.

  51. 51
    Czar Chasm says:

    Howdy! I’m a mental health worker that provides community-based care in Virginia. A few things about the mental health aspects of this post:
    -A baseline needs to be established here: There will always be mentally ill individuals in any community, based on the onset frequency of mental illness; or, a very few of us will always go crackers, and there will never be enough money to afford enough inpatient facilities to house them all. The question then, is, what to do with them? Speaking from my experiences in both community-based and inpatient programs, the community is FAR better: Less drain on public resources + economic stimulation to the local community (Monthly disability, Section 8, & SNAP all cost less than most inpatient commitments), greater access to social supports (family, friends, mental health groups, etc). The biggest one, though, is that in community-based settings, the person with mental illness feels, justifiably, that he/she has more control of their life and illness, which is frequently one of the top goals stated from surveys done on this population. Amazing what happens when you give people tools to control one’s destiny, and the freedom to do so.

    -In the city I work in, we have a police force that is pretty well trained: Working in this field, with occasional forays on the side into working with the homeless, you see plenty of law enforcement, and also get to know most of the officers by face, if not by name. One training opportunity that many of the city’s force have taken is called Crisis Intervention Training, which is designed to train the officer to be able to assess any mental health factors in a crisis situation, then use a combination of verbal and non-verbal techniques to de-escalate the situation to a point where the civilian causing trouble can be safely (i.e. no violence or physical force used) detained and taken to a nearby hospital for mental health evaluation. (Quick aside related to the evaluation aspect: Our state passed the legislation that will address some of the errors that led to State Senator Creigh Deeds’ tragedy last year, but a good part of it won’t happen until a budget gets passed. Tra la la….

    Let me repeat this: There is training out there for cops that can teach them how to use non-violent techniques with the mentally ill. It also works well in other situations, from personal observations.

    What can you do with this information?
    1.) Find out if your municipality/ies offer this training for their law enforcement agencies, and badger your local leaders to push for more of their officers to take/complete this training.
    2.) Advocate in your community to have this training available, if it is not offered. There is a very real possibility to
    3.) Advocate for greater funding allocations for this type of mental health training in ALL public sector employees: Even a public utility worker could save a few lives if they can detect the warning signs of a mental health crisis when they go read that person’s meter.

    Cops are people too, and some people can be arseholes large enough to make the rest of ’em look bad. The costumes make it easier to identify the arseholes, tho’.

  52. 52
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @NotMax: Imagine if our coppers were like British cops, armed with nothing more menacing than a government-issued billy club and only able to break out the firearms upon orders from on high.

  53. 53
    Mnemosyne says:


    It’s partly a Western states thing, too — William H. Parker pioneered the idea of the “militarized” police in Los Angeles to keep the force small despite the huge square mileage they needed to patrol, and it spread eastward from there.

  54. 54
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Mnemosyne: It’s true. Get a load of the shit they say online.

  55. 55
    celticdragonchick says:


    And Actually, anecdata is not reliable. We know you like your guns and believe every cop is just waiting to hurt someone. Neither position is based on sound reasoning.

    In this case, you are dealing with documented statements from people in uniform…and that should be alarming to anybody. Institutional violence against labor activists and progressives is well documented in the historical record over the last 130 years. Machine gunning striking mine workers and their families in Colorado, Army Air Corps bombers attacking miners at Blair Mountain, sending troops against bonus pensioners during the Depression, COINTELPRO, Viola Davis and on and on and on. Today, they have better weapons to continue the trend. Pretending it is anecdotal is willful ignorance.

    Of course, as Paul Krugman once said…the plural of anecdote is data

  56. 56
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @MattF: And deinstitutionalization works in a lot of cases. My uncle lives in a group home, much better life than being shut up in those mental hospitals. And it was common back then to stuff people with cerebral palsy into homes for the mentally retarded. I know a bunch of people with CP free living in the community now. Groups like the radical crips changed the lives of people with disabilities allowing them access to public transportation, public buildings and public accommodations.

    For a lot of people, it is a tragic lack of resources all the way.

    Also, a lot of the homeless people living in camps don’t have some sort of organic brain disease–they have PTSD and mood disorders. They could be treated but society just threw them away instead.

    You know where deinstitutionalization failed? Paranoid schizophrenics. For almost every other category, patients and their families are better off living in the community or in a group home situation, not a glorified prison. The other problem category is severely cognitively impaired violent autistics but from what I’ve heard there are placements for such people; schizophrenics are a problem because the drug regimens are a pain to comply with, their intelligence is normal, so they just fucking have a habit of living out there, going off their meds, and going off the rails. They can be really nasty, too, due to the paranoid side of it. We had one client who was finally forced into treatment by the court but she was detained for a period of time in a special facility. She was taking money from people for medical services that others provided. Had it not been for the criminal behavior, who knows where it would have ended. She had a violent, nasty tongue and accused everyone, including those trying to help her, of lying and stealing from her.

    And then there’s the guy who killed a friend of my wife. It was his son. He needed help, everyone knew that, but it never happened. He went hunting for his father one day, shooting people he knew until he caught up to his dad and confronted him, killing them both.

  57. 57
    celticdragonchick says:


    We know you like your guns

    I own firearms. I do not obsess over them. The only weapon I have actually fired in the last 15 years is my Brown Bess musket, since I am a rev war re-enactor.

  58. 58
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @celticdragonchick: The 2nd Amendment folks have been howling about FED cops, because they come after good Christian white taxpayers who maybe love firearms and keep wimmens and children locked up in a compound NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT don’t they know all the illegal guns are in the hands of obamavoters ENFORCE THE LAWS WE HAVE argle bargle janet reno is a dyke

  59. 59
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Roger Moore: I hope you’re joking. Those parasites have found ways to pay people negative dollars, come in with a hostile takeover, do the Bain thing, somehow at the end the pensioners are getting pennies on the dollar even with federal assistance and their bank accounts are full, but it’s illegal to raid a pension fund… wink wink.

  60. 60
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @The Republic of Stupidity: One of my brothers got his ass beat one night for spooking a police horse while running away (the cops told them to disperse and he was dispersing).

    FUCK equine units.

    They’re supposed to help with crowd control but I have yet to be convinced. I think they make cops lazy, also in a closed urban area those fucking hayburners aren’t going anywhere fast… yet to see a stationary mounted pig stop a stabbing, for example.

  61. 61
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Yes, there has been a lot of that, and I will not deny it. I merely suggest that some on the right have actually begun to make some common cause on the issue of brutality not related to gun ownership issues.

  62. 62
  63. 63
    Roger Moore says:

    I think a lot of the militarization of the police was based in racism. A lot of the big cities had white power structures even when large fractions of the population were minorities. As white flight exacerbated the situation, the police turned into something more like an occupying power trying to keep the populace in line, and that naturally led to a more militarized police force. Throw in the rapid increase in crime in the 1960s and 1970s, and you wound up with police forces that were primarily reactive rather than proactive and used excessive force to make up for it.

  64. 64
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @celticdragonchick: I’m not sure riding people down would go over well in Gainesville when we’re talking about the richest families in Florida’s kids. They did send the mounted units out to menace Justice for Trayvon marches. Completely peaceful protest, btw.

    GPD isn’t all bad but I have seen the porkers at work with my own eyes. There’s more … there’s a history … Tony Jones still has his hands tied in some ways …. Friggin’ shame.

    I merely suggest that some on the right have actually begun to make some common cause on the issue of brutality not related to gun ownership issues.

    Sounds like a positive development to the extent that’s true. It must be new–last time I was big on rightie-dominated boards I don’t recall the slightest flicker of concern about police brutality. There were those that feared the pitchforks and tumbrels, however. Maybe it was the wrong tranche of righties. I do know in person a few working class white reactionaries who don’t like the police. But there’s always been a group of poor rural whites who consider police to be “tits on a boar”.

  65. 65
    C.V. Danes says:

    @celticdragonchick: Oh, I’m not justifying their actions, by any means. Just saying that if there are more mentally ill people on the streets, we should be flooding them with assault weapons, too.

  66. 66
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    Very proud my UNM student was out there, in a very civil and non-violent manner, supporting those who can’t speak for themselves. There is hope for the future, I think.

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Yep. We have pretty much come full circle right back to the “Get a job!!” era of Reagan when it comes to the homeless. Just goes to show that if you live long enough you’ll want to poke your eyes out with a pencil because you’ll be so fucking pissed no one else has a memory.


  67. 67
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Another Holocene Human: One of the relatively recent medical advances is the development of long acting injectable anti-psychotics. They of course have all the same side effect risks of oral administration of the meds, but the depot formulation alleviates the compliance adherence issues. It should be the standard of care for treatment of schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder, but in many localities it is not yet.

    I made a comment to a(/n international expert) psychiatrist who treats and researches schizophrenia that perhaps the legal system should force the issue of making that the standard of care. Much to my (then) surprise, his response was that it must absolutely happen. Now that I know him, it’s totally in character.

  68. 68
    something fabulous says:

    Just anecdotally there’s been a visible change in my neighborhood, just in the 7-8 years I’ve been here– because of the nice weather and nearby park there’s always been at least a few homeless people living on the block, but fairly recently, the number of people has gone up, and among those folks, the number who present as really disconnected from reality seems to have gone up as well. Not when the economy first tanked, more now as it seems to be improving in other ways. Very frustrating, sad, and hopeless-feeling.

  69. 69
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Americans will gladly pay for police to shoot mentally ill people, and they will pay for them to be locked up once they have committed crimes thanks to their illness, but they will not pay for them to receive the help they need before bad things happen.

    This is the sad reality.

  70. 70
    Elie says:

    The police are acting out the values of our society. In our society, mental illness is treated with extreme abhorrence and contempt. We will not talk openly about our own or loved ones’ mental illness and own its reality. Thus, it is swept under the rug and becomes invisible even as its victims are in plain sight and suffering. Its invisibility allows our police to take out their contempt without penalty.

    The behavior of the police is horrible and inexcusable, but we will not be able to effect change in how they treat the mentally ill until WE acknowledge and respect the mentally ill by acknowledging them within our midst. They are everywhere — among our friends, co-workers, and above all our families and ourselves.

  71. 71
    jomike says:

    the us-against-them “law enforcement” mindset where armored gunslingers ride through a hellscape in which every non-uniformed individual is just an evildoer waiting to erupt into violence.

    ^ This. It wasn’t always like this, and that’s a shame. Chicago cops in the ’60s and ’70s, who really did work in some serious hellscapes, carried snubnose .38 revolvers. Many but by no means all carried nightsticks. That was about it — no spray, no Tasers, no Kevlar, no semiautomatic rifles, no paranoia. And far less attitude.

    I would’ve trusted those guys to deal with my mentally disabled adult son. These days, NFW. We’d never call the police to help us with a situation involving him. Fire or paramedics, sure, but not cops. Too many of them are too quick to resort to force, to mistake emotional disturbance for willful disobedience, to detect resistance or threat where there’s none, and escalate rather than defuse the situation.

  72. 72
    LanceThruster says:

    Community policing when the community is Orcs.

  73. 73
    LanceThruster says:

    We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

    Sorry, Charlie…not everybody.

  74. 74
    Renie says:

    @gbear: OMG I didn’t realize that was a real photo! I thought it was made up. I thought the cops in NYC were ridiculous with their gear but this guy is unbelievable.

  75. 75
    LanceThruster says:

    I blame sports.

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