At least one-third of all police shootings involve victims who have a mental health crisis or are disabled by substance use.
Thus, in the first week of 2023, there is no evidence of psychosis or other problems affecting the behavior of two men shot dead by police officers in Los Angeles and three men who died after being repeatedly swooned by police officers. It is not surprising that there was
Not surprising and unacceptable. The Los Angeles Police Department should be prepared for this type of encounter with training, tactics, and procedures to reduce the likelihood of harm to anyone, including suspects, officers, and bystanders. But cops still put so many people in danger.
That is most poignantly evident in the police killing of Takar Smith on January 2. Body cam video released unusually early by Chief Michelle Moore due to concerns about all three incidents. It shows the final moments of the police encounter and gives hints about the danger at the scene where Smith first brandished a chair and then a butcher knife.
But what annoyed Moore—and all of us—wasn’t necessarily the police actions on the scene, but rather the fact that officers had given advance notice that Smith was in the middle of a mental health crisis. His wife said so when she went to Rampart Station to report that he had violated a restraining order and would not leave the house. Said. They shouldn’t have entered the house without a mental health worker.
Mental health is increasingly part of the police reform debate after police shootings that drew the attention of people who did not respond the way officers expected them to because of mental illness, addiction, autism, physical and intellectual disabilities, and more. It has become.
In Los Angeles, attention to mental health has increased in Los Angeles following the 2014 shooting of a mentally disturbed black man, Ezell Ford, who was shot dead by police after being arrested for questioning. 1948.
And now we have a SMART team (System-Wide Mental Assessment Response Team) in place, which includes staff from the county’s Department of Mental Health, working alongside police officers.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Moore revealed that three SMART teams were available at the time officers confronted Smith. But no one was called.
Police and police critics rightly argue that we invest too little in mental health and public health, leaving the police to handle issues that should be left to clinicians and peer counselors.
Too few SMART teams. There are also too few county mental health he workers available between 10pm and 6am, perhaps the hours when they are most needed.
But we have them. Not using them in this case, and perhaps in others, adds weight behind the crisis response movement, which does not involve the police at all. was part of the driving force behind the If built as envisioned, the line will complement telephone counseling and treatment by unarmed clinicians and crisis center mobile units as an alternative. to hospital or to prison. California’s Miles Hall Lifeline Act was inspired by and named after a man shot dead by Walnut Creek police who responded to his family’s call for help. There are too many similar cases of police killing or maiming family members in response to family calls to protect loved ones.
Still, even mental health crises often require the police. For example, Smith allegedly violated a restraining order. Keenan Darnell-Anderson, who died in hospital after being tased unconscious by Los Angeles Police Department officers on Jan. 3, was allegedly involved in a car accident and strayed into traffic on foot. Oscar Sanchez, who was shot dead by police on Saturday, allegedly threw a metal object and threatened police with a knife and a metal stick. In either case, it is difficult to understand how unarmed mental health workers alone can protect subjects, bystanders, and themselves. It cannot simply be outsourced. But at least they can call his SMART team.
But the problem of crisis response is only the end of a long chain of failures. Had Los Angeles and the rest of the world had the robust behavioral health systems that complex societies like ours require, incidents like this might have been avoided in the first place. A network of community clinics that treat patients with disabilities, clinicians and counselors available for emergencies, adequate funding and medical insurance that adequately covers mental health care. Smith, Anderson, Sanchez.
Until we get them, the responsibility lies with the police and the needless deaths may continue.