EDITORIALS, POLICE USE OF FORCE

“Hold Your Fire” – A Missed Opportunity

"Hold Your Fire" - CBC
“Hold Your Fire” – CBC

“Police have become the mental healthy agency of first resort when they should be the last,” said Vancouver Police Department Chief Jim Chu (retired) at a National Police conference in 2014.

Chief Chu had tremendous insight.

When I opened my email yesterday I received an interesting request.  I was asked to promote a CBC documentary called, “Hold Your Fire,” a televised special presentation examining Police use of deadly force involving people suffering a mental health crisis.

I have always seen the issue as an important topic for conversation.

As a former Tactical Team member and Homicide Unit Supervisor, tasked with investigating Police Involved shootings, the issue is squarely in my wheelhouse.

I didn’t need much encouragement to spread the news among my former colleagues in Law Enforcement, Police Insider readers and friends on social media.

I was determined to keep an open mind despite feedback I received from some of my less enthusiastic peers;

“When the state news agency for Canada’s left advertises a doc called “Hold Your Fire,” I kinda doubt it’ll be about how great Canadian cops are at exercising restraint before shooting.  More likely to be about cultural flaws and how much better its done somewhere else, usually a Scandinavian place, sorry for the cynicism.”

My colleague’s point wasn’t lost on me, but nonetheless, I was determined to remain objective.

I also appreciated the CBC’s interest in receiving feedback on their story.

Twitter Feed
Twitter Feed

The show aired last night at 9:00 pm.

I watched it, slept on it and watched it again this morning at 5:00 am.  The second time I watched it I took detailed notes.

Analysis

The documentary centres on five (5) high-profile fatal Police shootings involving victims who suffered from some form of mental heath issue.

The cases explored were;

  • Obrien Christopher-Reid (26) – 2004
  • Paul Boyd (39) – 2007
  • Michael Eligon (29) – 2012
  • Michael MacIsaac (47) – 2013
  • Sammy Yatim (18) – 2013

Interesting enough, I previously conducted analysis and wrote two detailed accounts of the shootings of Yatim and MacIsaac.

It should be noted, TPS Constable James Forcillo stands charged with 2nd degree murder and attempt murder in the Yatim case.  At the time of writing, the jury is deliberating and a decision will be forthcoming.

Victim Characterizations

The documentary goes to great lengths to humanize the victims of these shootings.

I wouldn’t ordinarily take issue with these efforts, after all, these were human beings.

In some cases, the characterizations appeared to be designed to influence the audience to conclude the victims were non-violent people thereby inferring any force used against them could be considered excessive or unreasonable.

For example, Sammy Yatim was described as, “A student from a middle class family, he had no criminal record, no history of violence.”

Sammy Yatim - Ontario Superior Court of Justice
Sammy Yatim – Ontario Superior Court of Justice

In reality, Yatim’s behaviour was bizarre, he was armed with a deadly weapon (knife) that he was brandishing in a threatening manner.

The fact he had no criminal record and no history of violence is not relevant to any Law Enforcement Officer forced to deal with him.

Ultimately, the jury will decide.

I speak with authority when I tell you there are no winners in these kinds of cases.  The surviving family members on the victim side of the equation are devastated and often completely left in the dark by Special Investigations Units.

The information vacuum causes stress, anger, hostility and creates suspicion and mistrust.

The involved Officers are often devastated and many of them suffer severe emotional trauma and post traumatic stress.  Police Officers accept the fact the use of deadly force is part of their job but no Officer wants to have to use that level of force against a fellow human being suffering from a mental health crisis.

I have tremendous empathy for the surviving family members and the Officers involved in these tragic events.

The Central Theme

Within the first two minutes the central theme of the documentary becomes clear.

The narrator provides statistics that show seventy-two (72) people in crisis were shot by Police between 2004 – 2014.  This represents almost 40% of all police involved shootings.

The narrator suggests, “Always at the core there seems to be excessive use of force against people in crisis.”

The bold statement undoubtedly influences the audience, but is the suggestion true?

Are Police Officers “always” using excessive for against people suffering a mental health crisis?

It’s important to note Independent Special Investigations Units were assigned to investigate all five of the noted shootings.  Four (4) of the investigations concluded the Police Officers were justified in their use of deadly force.

Independent Special Investigation Units employ highly trained, experienced investigators with expertise specific to Police Officer use of force.

They are not writers, journalists or documentarians.

I’ll leave it to the reader to conclude who is better suited to assess Police Officer use of force.

Intentional Minimization

One of my great disappointments in the documentary were the writer’s intentional minimization of certain facts.

Example;

On February 3, 2012, Michael Eligon (29) was a patient at a Toronto Hospital where he had been taken by Police for a mental health assessment.

Approximately thirty-six (36) hours later, he left the hospital before receiving any treatment.  At the time he left the hospital he was clad in a blue hospital gown.

The “Hold Your Fire” writer characterized the events that followed;

“Elgin walks into a convenience store, grabs two pairs of scissors and gets into a “tussle” with the owner over payment resulting in a cut to the man’s hand.”

In reality, what occurred was a theft, followed by violence.  In the Canadian criminal code these elements constitute the offence of Robbery.

In fairness, the Officers dispatched to the call were not sent to a “tussle,” in fact, they were dispatched to a stabbing, a high priority dangerous incident.

The same event was described by National Post crime reporter Christie Blatchford as follows;

“There, after 36 hours with no treatment and only a blue hospital gown to show for his efforts, he had walked out of the joint, marched to a nearby convenience store, stole the scissors and, when the shopkeeper politely attempted to dissuade him, promptly stabbed him in the hand.”

She continued,

“Thus armed, clad only in his gown, black socks and a toque, Mr. Eligon then tried to carjack a woman and was prowling the east end neighbourhood, apparently looking for houses to break into.”

So, why the need for minimization?

It demonstrates intent to manipulate the facts to influence the audience to adopt a certain mindset or theory.

The Ontario SIU investigated Eligon’s death and concluded, “The subject officer was justified in using lethal force against Mr. Eligon.”

The report indicates just before being shot, Eligon stated, “One of you is going to die.” He made these comments as he rapidly advanced on uniform Patrol Officers in the middle of an East York street while still armed with two pairs of scissors.

Facts that were overlooked in the documentary.

The Michael MacIssac Shooting

The minimization didn’t end with the Eligon case.

On December 2, 2013, Michael MacIsaac (47) was shot and killed by a Durham Regional Police Officer.

Michael had been diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition that affects the areas of the brain that control memory and behaviour. The day before he died MacIsaac was running a fever, appeared dazed and had no appetite.

That morning, Michael bolted out of his home, naked and in near zero degree temperatures, with no shoes or socks on his feet.  As he ran about the neighbourhood the inevitable 911 calls were made and Police responded.

The “Hold Your Fire” writer described the events that followed;

“Next Michael picks up a piece of patio furniture and pounds on Shelly’s door apparently trying to get in.  He’s still holding a piece of it when Police arrive.”

Unfortunately, the magnitude of the events were grossly understated.

Michael MacIsaac Shooting - CBC
Michael MacIsaac Shooting – CBC

The “piece of patio furniture” the writer refers to was a three (3) foot piece of wrought iron table leg MacIsaac broke off a patio table.

When I watched the video I was taken aback by the sound of the heavy wrought iron table leg striking the roadway when the officer moved it out of MacIsaac’s reach.

The table leg could only be described as a potential deadly weapon.

In their findings the SIU wrote;

“The subject officer exited his vehicle and was making his way to the rear driver’s side when he saw Mr. MacIsaac approaching him holding one of the metal table legs in a threatening fashion.  The officer drew his firearm, pointed it at Mr. MacIsaac and ordered him to stop and drop the weapon. Mr. MacIsaac continued to advance towards the officer, prompting the subject officer to shoot twice.”

The SIU report indicates MacIsaac was within a range of 5 – 7 feet when the shots were fired.

Again, why the need for minimization?

Not discouraged by the facts, the narrator suggests;

“There seems to be a disconnect between progressive police policy around people in crisis and the average cops inability to sometimes to hold their fire.”

IMG_1955
Michael MacIsaac Running Down Sidewalk – CBC

And while the image of a naked Michael MacIsaac running down a sidewalk is flashed on the screen the narrator pontificates;

“Even when the person’s vulnerabilities couldn’t be more obvious.”

The suggestion, of course, is the shooting of Michael MacIssac was not justified because he was a naked man running in the streets in crisis.

The fact he was an agitated, unpredictable man in possession of a deadly weapon closing distance on Police Officers is somehow irrelevant.

Justified or not, the shooting was no less tragic and heartbreaking for the MacIsaac family.

The Use of Force

The use of force dialogue in the documentary centered on edged weapons and became absurd at times.

IMG_1957
Retired Sergeant Steve Summerville – edged weapon defence (CBC)

“The 21 foot rule got into officers heads, particularly problematic when running along side another piece of common training dogma, lethal force is an officers only reliable defence against a knife or other edged weapon,” the narrator suggests.

In reality, trained Police Officers know there are several less than lethal options possible when it comes to an edged weapon attack.  Officers could deploy a taser, pepper spray, bean bag rounds or use baton strikes under certain circumstances.

(These less than lethal force options should only be considered in certain situations and only with a deadly force option.)

The story then shifts to retired TPS Sergeant Steve Summerville who demonstrates hand to hand edged weapon defensive techniques using oversized rubber knives.

In my respectful opinion, any Police Officer, who doesn’t happen to be a martial arts expert or an expert in hand to hand defensive edged weapon techniques would be absolutely insane to try to disarm a knife wielding suspect.

Front line Officers simply do not have the kind of skill set required to disarm a knife wielding suspect with empty hand control tactics.  Any attempt to do so would have disastrous consequences.

Enter the absurd part.

The documentary shifts to the United Kingdom and features a video taped confrontation between Police Officers and a machete wielding man in a mental health crisis.

In one instance, an Officer attempts to disarm the man with a baton while the subject attacks another Officer who uses a “rollo bin” to fend off the attacker.

The deranged man chases Police Officers around parked cars until back up arrives with twenty or so “public order shields” (riot shields) that are used to overwhelm and disarm the man.

The documentary appears to celebrate the less than lethal result.

The difficulty is the Officers depicted in the video are extremely lucky they weren’t seriously injured or killed by the crazed attacker.  I can assure you, “luck” is not an intelligent less than lethal force option.

After conducting internet research I found over a dozen incidents where UK Police Officers were killed in the line of duty by edged weapon attacks.  In some cases, the killers were subjects with mental health issues.

Ironically, in one case, the Officer was killed in a machete attack.

The Winnipeg Police Service, however, has not lost an Officer in the line of duty for over 46 years. (1970)

Epilogue

As a final insult the narrator speaks to the Law Enforcement community;

“Remember the person in crisis could be someone you love.”

The inference, of course, is Police don’t humanize people in these deadly force encounters thus making it easier for cops to pull that trigger.

In reality, Police are trained to deal with a deadly threat using as much force is as reasonably necessary.  Police Officers are held to that standard and are accountable for any excessive use of force.

These are life and death decisions that often happen in a fraction of a second. Decisions that are analyzed in sterile environments by Judges and Lawyers for days, weeks and months and sometimes, years.

As disappointed as I was with the content and angle taken in the documentary, I appreciate the importance of the subject and the need for continued discussion.

Police can and must do better when it comes to dealing with people in a mental heath crisis.

Less than lethal force options must be made more readily available to front line officers.

Police Officers need more mental health education and training.

I found it interesting, however, that the heart of the issue was identified very early in the documentary but was essentially ignored thereafter.

Chief Psychiatrist Bill MacEwan of St Pauls Hospital in British Columbia calls it the “$2,500 office visit” and breaks it down for us;

  • $800 – Police intervention
  • $800 – Ambulance Service
  • $900 – Short stay in Emergency

He then sums it up;

“That’s a lot of wasted heath resources.  We should try to treat them before the crisis.”

That brings me to my final thought…

People employed in the Health Care Industry (Mental Health, Housing, Social Assistance, Family Services) generally outnumber Police Officers at a ratio of around 20 – 1.

Doesn’t it stand to reason Police Officers should never be the mental health agency of first resort.

Sadly, “Hold Your Fire” was a missed opportunity to have a more meaningful discussion.


Related Links:

The Police Insider – Police and Deadly Force – Are Cops Hell Bent on Killing People?

The Police Insider – Rubber Guns, Rubber Bullets, Rubber Rooms – Where the rubber meets the road


UK Officers Killed in Edged Weapon Attacks

Police Constable Jonathon Charles Henry (36) died June 11, 2007 after being fatally stabbed attempting to arrest a paranoid schizophrenic knife wielding suspect attacking the public in Luton.

Detective Michael Swindells (44) died May 21, 2004 after being stabbed to death attempt arrest of violent paranoid schizophrenic suspect.

Detective Stephen Robin Oake (40) died January 14, 2003 after being fatally stabbed by a suspect.

Constable Nina Mackay (Archives)
Constable Nina Mackay (Archives)

Constable Nina Alexandra Mackay (25) died on October 24, 1997 after being stabbed to death by a paranoid schizophrenic man she was attempting to arrest.  She is the only female police officer in Great Britain to have been stabbed to death in the line of duty.

Constable George Pickburn Hammond (58) died December 13, 1995 after being stabbed to death in the line of duty.

Detective John Carnie Robertson (39) died February 9, 1994 after being stabbed to death in the line of duty.

Constable Lewis George Fulton (28) died June 17, 1994 after being stabbed to death in the line of duty. (Strathclyde Police)

Sergeant William Forth (34) died March 21, 1993 after being fatally stabbed during a disturbance call.

Constable Alan Derek King (41) died November 29, 1991 after being fatally stabbed in the line of duty.

Constable James Morrison (26) died December 13, 1991 after being fatally stabbed in the line of duty.

Constable Roger Brereton (41) died August 19, 1987 after being shot to death in his police car pursuing a “berserk” gunman at Hungerford.

Constable William Fordham (45) died January 26, 1985 after being stabbed to death in the line of duty.

Constable Keith Henry Blakelock (40) died October 6, 1985 after being stabbed to death by an angry mob who attacked with machetes and edged weapons.  He was found with a 6″ knife fully buried in his neck.

Constable Keith Blakelock (Archives)
Constable Keith Blakelock (Archives)

Constable William Ross Hunt (56) died June 5, 1983 after being stabbed to death in the line of duty.  (Strathclyde Police)

Constable John Egerton (20) died March 11, 1982 after being stabbed to death in the line of duty.

Sergeant Michael Hawcroft (31) died March 12, 1981 after being stabbed to death by a suspect during an arrest.

9 Comments

  1. Marianne;

    Like I’ve said before, I recognize how tragic Michael’s case is.

    I also recognize there has to be a better way to address the information vacuum that exists for family in the aftermath of fatal police involved shootings.

    I hope you find the answers you are still looking for.

  2. Marianne Macisaac

    Helen thank you very much for taking the time to comment and explain that not everything is as simply black and white as it may appear or as the SIU and Durham Police have portrayed it in
    Michaels case . Mr Jewell there are many details of Michael,s case that is still being investigated.

  3. First off, James, thank you very much for drawing my attention to your newsletter and for inviting dialogue.

    As the producer/director of Hold Your Fire, I would like to say first that this why we make these challenging social affairs documentaries, to promote conversation.

    As I said to you in my earlier email, I believe you and I are on the same side – working to make a difference in this society we inhabit. And I believe that this is the goal of most who choose to put on a police uniform.

    Our intention was to further an important discussion that I know is going on inside progressive police departments and I’m disappointed that you saw the film as a missed opportunity. We have had considerable positive response to the documentary from within policing circles.

    Victim Characterizations

    You take issue with the humanization of the victims of the shootings we looked at in the documentary, pointing out as an example the line describing Sammy Yatim: “A student from a middle class family, he had no criminal record, no history of violence.” I would like to point out that this section of the documentary goes on to say that “Yatim was acting very strange, even threatening fellow passengers with a knife.”

    Your accurate reporting of our reporting is important as, once again, I do believe we have the same core goals.

    In terms of humanizing the people who died, they are characters in the story so of course we wanted to bring them to life. But more than that, the families all feel that their loved ones were dehumanized and vilified in police post-mortems. If you take a hard and honest look at police reports and press conferences following these deaths, I think you’ll be forced to agree.

    In the hopeful belief that an officer did best he could, it is understandable that police look for what the person on the wrong end of the pistol might have done to cause their own death or, at least, make their death justifiable. While the police point-of-view is understandable, it compounds the grief of the family, to see their loved one reduced to a “dangerous crazy person”.
    Finally on this point – we did unsuccessfully seek permission to interview an officer who has to live with the knowledge that they’d taken a life.

    The Central Theme

    The documentary does establish as its theme the exploration of what “seems to be excessive use of force against people in crisis.” It doesn’t state this as a conclusion but as a common public observation which will then be explored.

    As you know, Special Investigations Units assess whether or not use of force is legal and justifiable. They are not generally exploring whether or not there might have been a better way of doing things. This was the focus of the documentary.

    Intentional Minimization

    You used the Michael Eligon case to essentially make the point that we’d minimized the victim’s responsibility in their own death. And you quote Christie Blatchford to make your point. Certainly her colourful writing makes the scene seem very dangerous but I’d argue that leaning on her dramatic description is not very useful if the goal is not to justify this tragedy but to learn from it.

    We spoke to the shopkeeper, about a year after the incident. He showed the scar on his hand where he was stabbed and described how it happened as the two tussled over the scissors when Eligon tried to walk out without paying. We tried to describe it as it was described to us.

    Eligon’s dazed demeanour kept coming up in eye-witness interviews. After he left the convenience store, more than one eye witness saw Eligon as ill, and not particularly dangerous – looking more confused than threatening.

    Yes, a dazed-looking man in a hospital gown injured a shopkeeper and scared a motorist. And yet, he was observed by several people to be not dangerous, but in need of help. As you point out, the officer has been cleared. Surely the point here is to look for a way to back up from the point of fatal collision so that Eligon is cleared too.

    The Michael MacIsaac Shooting

    The point of the documentary was to look for areas where solutions could be found. Yes, Michael MacIsaac was holding a table leg. Whether or not he was threatening the officer, or even had time to threaten the officer, is another matter. But, yes, you hear the table leg kicked away as Michael sits rocking on the ground after the shooting.

    The documentary doesn’t try to hide facts but to ask police to look at them fresh, without immediately putting on the justification lens. This is still a naked man in December, running around Ajax Ontario. No one else is in danger when the officer races up to the scene. Fewer than 12 seconds later the man is dead. Is it not worth exploring another approach?

    The Use of Force

    I don’t understand your statement that this section of the documentary “became absurd at times.”

    The film talks about common training dogma, that “lethal force is an officer’s only RELIABLE (my caps) defence against a knife or other edged weapon.” You take issue with this, pointing out several less lethal options but then you go on to say, “These less lethal force options should only be considered in certain situations and only with a deadly force option.” This is exactly what the documentary’s narrator says, that lethal force has been trained as “the only RELIABLE defence against a knife or other edged weapon.”

    The scene with Steve Summerville section, training security personnel at Toronto East General Hospital, was not to suggest that today’s police officer should employ martial arts in taking down a man with a knife but rather to point out possible gaps in training. As a former Toronto Police officer, with 24 years’ service, ending his service as a Staff Sergeant at the Ontario Police College, I would argue that Summerville is qualified to make this point.

    But the greater goal the documentary is to explore is the possibility of minimizing confrontation. Perhaps this section of the documentary should have been longer – showing more of Toronto East’s training program and including this clip from head of security Clint Hodges, “As a result of that training, we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the percentage of force application that we have to employ at the hospital.

    When we started our journey in 2003, we were applying force almost 50% of the time. Now we’re below 5% of the need to apply force on a day-to-day basis.”

    You describe the UK officers who disarmed the man with the machete without lethal force as extremely lucky. It’s not luck, it’s training, and the documentary continues on after the machete incident to show the training that produces this kind of result.

    Your post went on to list British police officers killed in stabbings. Point taken, although we don’t know how many of them died at the hands of people in crisis and we don’t know how many would have survived if they’d been armed…or how many more officers would have died over those same years if they’d been armed.

    As well, it leads around to the discussion raised very briefly in the documentary about the value of life: is a police officer’s life more valuable than a citizen’s? This is not a discussion I wanted to dive into in the documentary, or now. The documentary was intended to explore ways of saving lives, and families, at both ends of the gun.

    Epilogue

    You said in your newsletter that you were disappointed that the documentary missed “the heart of the issue,” that police officers “should never be the mental health agency of first resort.” I would suggest that, given the outcome of the interactions shown in the documentary, that point is quite clear. Yet we both know that when a citizen calls 911 because someone is behaving strangely, the likelihood is that it will be police who attend.

    And those officers must be better trained to handle the situation so everyone goes home at the end of the day and no family is traumatized, on either the “victim” or the police side of the equation. I feel tremendous empathy for the officers who have to live with the fact that they have taken a life. It must be a terrible burden to bear, even without the vilification that is so often present in this society which is always looking for an easy answer, for a bad guy.

    I’m not a person who seeks easy answers or who is quick to leap to judgement. We did not look for “bad guys”, did not point at individual officers in the documentary, because I believe it is the system that needs examination and I believe that examination is critically important in protecting not only the public but the police.

    As you noted, the documentary draws attention to the huge number of interactions between police and people in crisis that are handled successfully. As the documentary states, in 2014 Toronto Police reported 20,000 interactions with people in mental health crisis; Vancouver Police estimate their number was closer to 30,000. I’m sure you know that many of these interactions are simple check-ins with regulars who call 911 when they’re in personal crisis. Police may talk them down, or call a relative, or take the person to hospital.

    This certainly does point to deficits in the mental health system. As I’m also sure you know, there are still grumblings within police circles about whether or not this is “real” police work. I not sure what is “real” police work – catching bad guys or helping people, or both. The documentary didn’t attempt to answer that question but rather to look at how police can better handle the mental crisis work that some would say has been dumped in their laps.

    But whether or not you believe police should be attending mental health calls is not the point. The fact is, when a call comes through that someone is behaving bizarrely in public, possibly carrying a weapon of weapon of some kind, police in Canada are unlikely to know what is the person’s mental health status. Police will react to the behaviour and the weapon, not to the person’s state of mind.

    Completely understandable, and also the crux of the judge’s instructions in the James Forcillo case – the jury can only consider Forcillo’s state of mind, not the state of mind of Sammy Yatim. Did Forcillo truly believe his life was in danger, did he have other practical options, beyond lethal use of force?

    Our documentary strives not to judge Forcillo, or other officers, but to open up the discussion to other options that might buy a police officer more time and space before moving to lethal force. I do believe there is room in training to grow better outcomes and I know that work is underway. Again, I mean outcomes both for the “victim” AND for the officer. As police always say, “No officer gets up in the morning wanting to go out and shoot someone.”

    I want to be clear that I don’t pretend to have all the answers. As a documentarian, I believe it is my role not to drawn the ultimate conclusions but to spark discussion. Thanks for the opportunity.

    Helen Slinger, Bountiful Films

  4. I wish there was some mainstream assertion that police use of force ( when employed properly) wether lethal or otherwise is simply a response to a threat and not punitive.
    It’s as if it makes a difference if there is a mental health crisis or not…. It’s irrelevant in that it doesn’t make the subject any less dangerous.
    It does however make the circumstances more unfortunate after the fact if there are mental health issues in play, but if police are required to use force to deal with the danger presented as a result of the illness, there is little (at that moment at least) that can be done to address the illness itself.

    I find this argument that police need more training or experience in the mental health realm extremely frustrating.

    More training and experience is always a good thing, but the frustration lies with the attitude that police are somehow inexperienced in the subject. I would argue that police have just as much training and experience as any front line worker in the mental health field.

    That is reflected by the thousands of calls for service police attend to in Canada every year assisting people with mental health issues where force is not used and those people ultimately get the help that they need.

  5. The CBC should be challenged to approach every Police Service in the country and ask to see the use of force reports where the person was safely brought into custody. Whether that be with the mere issue of the police challenge (gunpoint arrest) through the use of taser, spray or baton. There are thousands of people alive and well today because of the use of force training provided to Canadian Police officers.

  6. Sharon;

    Don’t consider your comments as quibbling at all, rather an astute observation from someone with intimate knowledge.

    I think anyone with experience on the front line would agree with your observations, we have to put more resources on the streets.

    Collaboration is the best approach.

    Thank you for adding to the conversation.

  7. Without intending to quibble unnecessarily, “People employed in the Health Care Industry (Mental Health, Housing, Social Assistance, Family Services) generally outnumber Police Officers at a ratio of around 20 – 1” might be true in absolute terms, but in terms of availability to respond in the community to an individual in crisis…

    In Winnipeg, for instance, you might want to contrast the availability of the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Service (last I heard they still had one team overnight) with the availability of police units. When I worked there, there were only two clinicians who worked night shifts at all…and we worked 8 and 12 hour shifts (with a crisis worker), always opposite each other. Pretty challenging when you factor in that a person in crisis might well be unpredictable, the team is usually in an unfamiliar environment with no backup, and (as your article illustrates) improvised weapons are not difficult to acquire without planning. More could be done to ensure that the services available meet identified needs in the community. Collaborative police and mental health efforts strike me as a logical approach.

    Better planning and use of resources before the point of crisis would prevent so much suffering and tragedy in our communities.

  8. Scott…

    Excellent observation.

    Appreciate your thoughts.

    Thank you for commenting.

  9. Excellent article. I watched the show and thought the same things. Why was there not more emphasis placed on the fact Eligon was taken to the hospital by police (I assume as he was in crisis) and after waiting 36 hours for treatment he was able to just walk away?? Once again leaving the police to be the catch-all for all the shortcomings of every other social system and the ones to blame when something goes bad.

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