Polarizing Stupid

The NYPD is developing new “sensitivity rules” for police officers to deal with mentally unstable individuals.

NYPD cops are about to become street shrinks, under new rules that require them to use calming phrases when they have to subdue dangerous disturbed people, The Post has learned.

The NY Post describes the new initiative as “touchy-feely.”

Then I went and read the comments at the Weasel Zippers post where I caught the NY Post article.  The comments are terrible.  I can’t stand when polarizing politics gets in the way of a good idea.

Now I will say, I don’t know just yet how effective the NYPD mandade will be.  How they implement these new mandates is something we will have to see.  But at face value, I completely support the push to make officers more sensitive to people’s mental states.  To dismiss that is beyond stupid.

When my dad was dying, he was delusional.  He had no idea where he was.  His blood sugar was out of whack.  His kidneys were failing.  He talked to people who weren’t there and about things that didn’t make sense.

When my wife’s grandfather was at the end of his days, we visited him in the old folks home.  He flirted with my wife, because he had no idea who she was, what year it was, and seemed to think he was at a church dance.

Disease and illness does strange things to people’s awareness and cognitive abilities.  The police are often called out to deal with people who are acting strange.  Sometimes those interactions go badly.

A few years ago a Park Forest, Illinois, police officer killed a 95 year old man with a bean bag round.  The man had dementia and was delusional and dehydrated.  Yes, the man had a knife, but he was 95 and thirsty.

There have been several accounts of police shooting  or tazing diabetics who are having a diabetic crisis and acting erratically because their blood sugar was way off.

These people didn’t need to get shot.  They just needed a cup of juice.

There was a have been similar incidents of police shooting and tazing elderly people with dementia.

There has been an increase in police having to interact with the mentally ill.  Police, psychiatrists, and medical doctors all have proposed ways that police can improve their response to people with mental illness.

The motto of the police is to “protect and serve.”  Saving the lives of the mentally ill, rather than shooting them should be a priority.  I’m not asking the police to treat the mentally ill.  But for a police officer to be able to assess if a person is suffering from a mental or emotional problem and de-escalating the situation in a way that does not involve harming a person that is not fully cognitive is a critical.  Even if the tactic is to contain the person until medical personnel can better handle the situation is a step forward.

This is not an unreasonable position to take, given that as the baby boomers get older, the number of people with diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other problems will increase.  If this saves one grandparent who is having a medical crisis from being shot unnecessarily, it’s a good thing.

But a good portion comments to this article seem to cheer on the idea that the police should just shoot and or taze people who are having problems and that this is a case of liberalism run amok.

This why we can’t have nice things.  Because if a good idea does manage to come out from the other side of the aisle, it’s immediately quashed.  Liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican – I don’t care who comes up with the idea, if it saves lives and reduces the financial burden on cites by reducing the number of wrongful death suits, I will entertain the idea.

Maybe, just maybe, a policy of teaching a cop how to identify and deal with someone who needs an MD more than a JHP is more important than the letter after the name of the person who  created the policy.

4 Replies to “Polarizing Stupid”

  1. I think I’m somewhere in the middle here. Having tools for de-escalating the situation is always a good thing, and training on dealing with people who are in an episode is also good. A 16-page memo written as a script? Not so much. It comes across as a CYA for the Chief if it isn’t backed by actual training in how to apply it.

    1. That is a reasonable position. Wanting a good policy is not wrong.

      My issue is with the people, several of who expressed opinions along the lines of “You know what calms a person down? The sound of a gun cocking.”

      No asshole, it doesn’t, not when the person is having a medical crisis. That is the problem that has caused the NYPD to create this mandate.

      I have argued for tough on crime policies in the past. But being delusional or mentally ill is not a crime. I get that there has been a backlash against soft on crime policies that have come from BLM protests. But the response to that shouldn’t be turn cops into Judge Dredd like shoot first responders. Not all public safety issues should be solved with a gun and treating a punk who held up a convince store and a an autistic young man having an anxiety attack the same way, with a gun, is not just bad policing, is it a lack of compassion and humanity.

  2. Ah….no. Keep in mind, this is the NYPD. Their motivation is not to avoid killing/injuring people with mental problems, it’s to avoid legal liability for doing so. This is the production of a protocol. At this moment NYPD LEOs are learning, by rote repetition, the exact words to say over the radio and in front of witnesses, not to mention in sworn testimony. Then they can blaze away with full blue shield coverage. Sorry.

    My wife of twenty three years went through two years of in and out dementia before she passed, and I hear you on the subject. But this is just another variation of CYAWP which will probably, after it gets court blessed, lead to more shooting-as-problem-solving rather than less.

  3. I had the opportunity, last week, to speak with an officer who personified the “Protect and Serve” mindset. An elderly, very confused gentleman, with a baseline mentation deficit, was brought in to the hospital at the instigation of the officer. The officer related to me that he was an officer, “not for the attorney with a 150,000 dollar car and a nice house: he doesn’t need me. That guy, over there: he depends on me to do the right thing. He is why I took that oath.” Once we had finished caring for the gentleman, and were ready to discharge him, another officer from this same (yeah, rural) department came and took him home, seeing him safely into his apartment.

    My point? The “Officer as social worker” theme is not new, is not restricted to NYC/NYPD, and has long been a part of the toolbox officers have to call upon. Some officers, who are each a credit to their profession, have been employing that tool for a long time. I hope that the officers of NYPD do not find themselves, or the citizens they protect, endangered by the proclamations of the Suits who direct them.

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