Monday, August 1, 2011

This Did Not Need To Happen

I'm not going to take any sides on whether the police responded appropriately or not in this incident.  There is not enough information yet (although it does not sound good, from this July 31, 2011 Orange Register account).  I will say that while it does not seem like it would take six police officers to subdue one unarmed man, there are some astonishing things that happen when a mentally ill person is seeing things that aren't there.  From the July 11, 2011 Orange County Register:

FULLERTON – A 37-year-old man who suffered head and neck injuries was taken off life support five days after police say he fought with officers trying to search him.

Kelly Thomas, who was homeless and suffered from schizophrenia, died Sunday afternoon at UCI Medical Center in Orange, his father, Ron Thomas, said.

"It was a brutal beating," said Thomas, a former Orange County sheriff's deputy. "My son's injuries were more indicative of someone using techniques to take someone out, to kill them immediately."
 Ron Thomas likely knows a bit about what brutal beatings look like, being former law enforcement.  Of course, I am not expecting him to be completely objective under the circumstances.  Could you?  But the bigger issue here is that the streets are filled with homeless mentally ill people who our society, in its respect for their "courageous, independent lifestyle" (as a federal judge once characterized a mentally ill person living on the streets of New York City in squalor) has thrown away.  Sometimes a confrontation develops like this, and under the best of conditions, it is going to end very, very badly.

UPDATE: A reader points out that it can take a lot of people to subdue someone if the goal is to minimize injuries to the subject and to the police.  That's certainly true.  If you shoot someone, that usually subdues them just fine.  But that's not what a police officer is supposed to do.  As it happened, the result was about the same in this case.  As I said: this did not need to happen, if the mental health system were operating in a sensible manner.

1 comment:

  1. Very very sad situation. I know one man who two officers pulled his hands behind his back and threw him to the pavement because he was acting strange walking home to his apartment. They threw him into their patrol car and took him to the mental hospital. The mother was not notified for 3 days that he was there. He was probably knocked out on some kind of shot so that he could not communicate. The shoulder was damaged ..The police officers are naturally rough..