The police need better tools for subduing the mentally insane other than bullets

December 9, 2014- By Steven E. Greer, MD

All across the country, for the last several weeks, organized protests of thousands of people have resulted in rioting and closure of major streets. The demonstrators are demanding change to the police departments that have allowed officers to shoot and kill unarmed black males.

The protests have been defined by the media as being motivated by “racial unrest”, as blacks demand an end to racial profiling by police. The predictable response from the conservatives on Fox News, etc. has been to take the bait and fuel the fires. It’s good for TV viewing since white are the only ones to watch cable TV news these days, it seems.

Meanwhile, the most important changes needed in policing that should be getting the most press coverage are being buried by the news. Police officers need better tools for subduing the mentally ill. Bullets and the death penalty are inappropriate tools for subduing schizophrenics.

Last night, a mentally ill man invaded a New York Jewish temple, stabbing one person and threatening others. It was all caught on video. The police responded and tried very hard to subdue the man and have him drop the knife. He refused, and was shot dead by a bullet to the chest.

How might the NYPD have better trained and equipped these officers to subdue a mentally ill man? Should they have used a Taser instead of a deadly firearm? Could they have evacuated the building and let the man run out of steam, or come down from whatever drug might have been agitating him?

Body cameras will do absolutely nothing to prevent future shootings of the mentally ill. In the case last night, the officers were filmed. In 2012, a mentally ill man was shot in broad daylight in Times Square. The police know that it looks bad and they call it “awful but lawful” rationalizing it. The District Attorneys look the other way.

All across the country, the police forces seem to have the mentality that people, who do not comply with orders and are the least bit threatening, deserve to be shot dead. There seems to be little to no training in how to subdue a mentally ill person other than by shooting them dead.

We can do better than this in The Unites States of America. Ideally, mentally ill need to be prevented from being on the streets in the first place. But there will always be the dangerous crazed man in big cities. Police need better ways to subdue them. This is the most important issue to be addressed as a result of the historic protests of 2014.

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