Just the other morning we’ve seen on the news a heartwarming story about a great Ohio police officer (white) who has stopped a motorist (African American) for speeding. Upon learning that the motorist was speeding because he’s just learned that his sister has died in an accident, the police officer took it upon himself to drive the grief-stricken driver to his destination. That’s “Serve and Protect” in action, that’s the police you can trust and call for help.
It was no “Serve and Protect” case in El Cajon, CA where a sister of a mentally disturbed man called 911 for help getting him off the street where he wandered into traffic. The police officers who responded to the call KNEW that the African American man was mentally disturbed and unarmed. It didn’t stop them from firing five rounds and killing 30 year old Alfred Olango. The community of El Cajon is outraged and protests continue.
Only a day later, on 09/30/16 Pasadena police responded to a call regarding a domestic disturbance. At the scene the police officers found 36 year old African American man, Reginald Thomas with a knife and fire distinguisher. The officers proceeded to restrain him (he was hogtied) and then tasered him repeatedly until the officers realized he was dying. At this point, the restraints were removed and the officers attempted to revive him. The efforts failed.
Thomas was a father of eight and expected a baby with his wife Shainie Lindsay. He was bipolar and in and out of residential treatment facilities. His wife made a statement to KTLA: “They know he is on Social Security, they know he is 5150. (A police code for a psychiatric patient) This is not the first run-in with him.”
Ironically, the initial call to the police was made by the victim requesting help. Reginald Thomas’ Pasadena neighborhood is holding protests against police brutality.
Police killings of mentally ill Americans (of any race!) are not uncommon. Clearly, police training comes short on preparing officers for dealing with people with mental illness. The perplexing question in the El Cajon and Pasadena cases is why police officers ALERTED to the fact that the “suspects” are mentally disturbed / mentally ill and unable to comply with commands, decided to kill them instead of safely apprehending them. Hundreds of years ago, game hunters shot “bullets” (small balls, really) filled with a net to restrain wild animals without injuring or killing them. Why can’t police officers?