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#StreetSoldiers With @LisaEvers – ‘Police Tactics & The Mentally Ill’ #Recap

Source: LisaEvers.com

Lisa Evers, who reports exclusively for Fox5 and Hot97 with her reputable and straightforward Street Soldiers segment discussed police tactics and the mentally ill after the tragic death of 66-year-old Deborah Danner. Lisa and her panel aimed to address the issues surrounding Deborah’s fatal police encounter and come up with solutions for change.

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According to the Danner family, Deborah had been suffering from schizophrenia for over 20 years. Prior to Deborah’s death, police had made several visits to her Bronx apartment to defuse situations she was involved in.

On October 18th neighbors made a 9-1-1 call because Deborah was acting erratically. Four police officers arrived to the scene and found the elderly mentally ill woman flustered and holding a pair of scissors. One of the officers was able to convince Deborah to put the scissors down but in the midst of things she picked up a baseball bat. Deborah allegedly swung the bat at Sgt. Hugh Barry who then shot her twice in the torso, leaving her lifeless.

Deborah’s death sparked feelings of frustration and anger toward law enforcement and the mental health system. The day after her tragedy at a press conference, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said, “what is clear in this one instance, we failed.” He went on the say that the sergeant didn’t follow proper protocol or use his Taser.

One of Lisa’s panelist Sgt. Henry Moreno was disappointed that the commissioner made a political rush to judgment without letting a full investigation gather all the facts. Henry believes that pointing the finger at one person won’t solve the problem and the best way to fix this would be to come up with solutions instead. Henry didn’t justify the actions of the sergeant who killed Deborah, he just reminded listeners that a bat is a lethal weapon and since we weren’t present during the incident we don’t know exactly what happened.

What we do know is that one and four people suffer from mental illness according to Lisa’s other panelist, Dr. Jeff Gardere who’s a clinical psychologist and a professor in behavioral medicine. The greater issue around Deborah’s death is that some people are “suffering in silence” as Dr. Jeff called it and aren’t getting the help they need.

Another problem may be with the psychological exams that officers take before they get hired. Dr. Jeff suggested that departments should add a section that examines if a person has a personality disorder or if they’re racist.

Hip hop artist and activist with the Justice League NYC, Mysonne spoke very passionately about the issues while on Street Soldiers. He defended Deborah as if she were his grandmother and told Lisa that he led protests for her because “there’s not enough protest for our women,” Mysonne said. He believes that the problem is with the officer’s lack of training for these type of calls.

From Lisa’s point of view, the issues revolving around Deborah’s terrible death results in distrust and a disconnect between the community and law enforcement. These controversies have a domino effect and ignite conflicts that make matters more challenging.

Misconceptions of people who struggle with mental illness leads to misunderstanding. Lisa asked Dr. Jeff if people with mental diseases have “super human strength” and contrary to belief, only a small percent of them may end up violent. Some people are insensitive to those who are struggling with battles in their brain everyday. Dr. Jeff pointed out that sometimes their medication makes them feel more “crazy” and they feel better without it.

Mysonne stands firm by the idea that if an officer lacks empathy toward individuals like Deborah, when they walk into these situations, they don’t see the person as a human being. Mysonne also pointed out that another conflict may be that there are officers who aren’t capable of handling their job. Dr. Jeff agreed with Mysonne on the idea some cops may not be mentally prepared to serve and protect citizens. From a psychological point of view, Dr. Jeff believes that the greater struggle arises when those people who unknowingly have mental health issues end up in jail and receive their treatment there.

With 20 years experience in the police department, Sgt. Henry Moreno knows first hand that when a police encounter ends fatally, tensions between the community and police begins to grow. Although the commissioner admitting that there’s flaws within the department is a great first step, Henry believes that police aren’t the only ones to blame and we need to look at our mental health system as well.

One solution for change according to Henry is officers should undergo crisis intervention and hostage negotiation training. Since Henry received both of those trainings, in Deborah’s case he knows that building a rapport and empathizing with the individual is the proper procedure when in that type of situation. Once the cop builds trust with the person, the next step would be to keep them calm until specialized officers arrived on scene.

Dr. Jeff believes that well trained officers need to be sent to calls that deal with people who have mental health issues. Henry pointed out that this year the NYPD received 128,000 calls for mental health situations and seven ended fatally. Henry and Dr. Jeff agreed that a solution for change would be to examine how police officers handled the calls that were successful.

Dr. Jeff also suggested that the mental health system as a whole needs to “reboot, be stronger, and help individuals.” In addition, just like any other prestigious profession such as doctors, or lawyers, police officers should be required to have two years of college and the education should be ongoing.

On the other hand, Mysonne feels that after Deborah’s death “people lose faith in the police” and it may be time for people to police themselves. Although he’s an entertainer, he’d be willing to dedicate his time into serving and protecting the citizens of his community.

Lisa pointed out that when people who are mentally ill and due to their race, gender, or economic status aren’t getting proper treatment and then when police are called and things go wrong, the first responders get the most heat. In order to cool things down and dig deeper into the issue Lisa suggested that there be a live town hall meeting that includes law enforcement, mental health professionals, and citizens.

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