Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Brain is a system that fails, "comply or die" makes no sense.

Hi! Happy Sunday!

We need more conversations of about systems. Why?  To bring it down a notch when it comes to folks squaring off in their respective corners. In this blog post the topic is "comply or die" as it regards to mental health, not racism. I think compassion for those who have mental health issues is a topic we can all agree on where given someone resists arrest due to mental health problems then this should not just result in death, free and clear. There has to be standards of responsibility by police to de-escalate and so if the standards are not followed result in penalties. The mentally ill don't deserve to die with impunity.

The brain is a system. The brain is not a blank slate where there only exists free will.

Here a couple of comments I pulled off of the Internet that assume the brain is a blank slate; always healthy and never impaired.
1.) If he'd complied, he'd be ALIVE.
2.) Stop resisting, it's that simple. If you don't resist arrest, nobody gets hurt.
Mental health, having mental health problems, should not be an automatic death sentence because 0% risk to a police officer is the only acceptable level of police risk in our society.

People who have impaired brain systems, mental health issues, do not react rationally. Their judgment is impaired. The two comments above do not reflect impairment and are cold and callus...they do not reflect the kind of society I think most Americans would like to live in.

The brain is a system. That system fails. When that system fails oft times it is law enforcement who are our first responders before any thought of mental health treatment can be applied.

The above two, sample blank-slate statements taken to their logical absurdity would have law enforcement just shoot on sight any drug addict high on PCP; such drug addicts always violently resist arrest and never comply. Law enforcement officers deserve to go home alive so let's just always kill all the violent druggies.  Just comply with a police officer's lawful orders and you'll live. It's that simple.  Is that what we want on as a society? To kill people with mental health problems because they are out of their minds? The mind is not a blank slate, always rational. How sad is it if our moral position as a society is to "comply or die", no risk to the police. This is not a mental health solution. It solves nothing and just condemns those who are already disadvantaged to extreme prejudice of death. Consider: over half of the homeless people living on the streets have mental health problems. These folks regularly encounter law enforcement. "Comply or die" just breaks my heart because I'm sure many of the homeless do not comply with law enforcement when being arrested. Are they now more at risk?

Further consider: if people start believing the police are going to kill anyone who resists arrest then will the public now hesitate to call the police on a loved one gone mad? Over half of all murders are crimes of passion. That hesitation of calling police could easily now result in more dead.

I need to repeat that this is a systemic blog post and this is a post about the system of the brain and us having compassion for when it fails. This is not a reflection in any way of the relevance of racism. All I'm saying is that I do not believe that the majority of Americans want a law enforcement system, small or large scale, that is death prejudiced against those with impaired brains that resist arrest; either because of a temporary fit of passion, drug addiction, or permanent brain damage.

I'd like to close with a story about an arrest of a neighbor of mine back in 1988. At the time I had no money, just having moved to California from Indiana. My brother and I lived in a cheap apartment with at least  two drug dealers that I know of. People coming and knocking at doors 24/7.

This particular neighbor resisted arrest with three factors that could have gotten him killed by police:
  1. High on PCP. He never complied and resisted the arrest physically for hours before being subdued.
  2. Beat his wife who called the police. 
  3. Waving around a knife.  
The arrest took the better part of two hours. There were four police cars in the street.  After about an hour the wife started a physical altercation with the police given the screaming noise coming from below. All-in-all a very difficult situation for the police to manage.

After a couple of hours the fellow was brought out hog tied. By hog tied I mean he had zip-ties on his hands behind his back; zip-ties on his feet and then both sets of zip-ties were also zip-tied together with his feet and hands behind his butt.  He was only dressed in his tidy whiteys. They carried him to the back of the police car in that position. He didn't die.

Given all the circumstances in that situation I  can't help but contrast that image long ago of a very dangerous arrest to the low danger arrest video of five officers taking down a guy for an infraction and then killing him. Further, at no time has there been any police discussion about different tactics used because someone may have unknowing health issues when an arrest is made; albeit heart conditions, diabetes, asthma or mental conditions. From all the media that the police are presenting of themselves about themselves, media by the police in favor of the police, there has been no nuance of condition. I find that troubling. The police had many previous encounters with this fellow and could have easily known he had asthma. Maybe we should consider pulling up "people plates" before making arrests just the same as CHP does with cars. Maybe they would have known he had asthma before choking him.

Arresting people who have mental health impairments and who resist arrest puts an officer at risk. A police system that accepts 0% risk by the police with respect to mental health problems, just comply or die, is a cold-hearted, uncaring society that I do not believe any one truly wants to live in.

Well come! and Well met! 

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