Medical and Psychiatric Illness and Police

Dr. Wycliffe Baird

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer.

Opinion: Too many citizens are ending up dead at the hands of Police. This is a huge problem and the entire World has serious concerns and is disgusted. There are protests everywhere and people are saying “Enough is enough! This has to stop”. I would like to share some perspectives on Police encounters with persons who are mentally or physically handicapped.

Before we discuss the actual encounter of Police with a citizen, we have to inquire about the Training of Police to deal with someone who is handicapped. It is clear from the attitude and the results of encounters with a number of mentally ill patients, that they are ill equipped to deal with situations of this nature and they often escalate, rather than deescalate the situation. They seem to add fuel to the fire and this sometimes results in deadly consequences for the sick person. In fact, I am of the view that the Police should not be involved in a large number of these instances. There is often no need for someone with a gun. What is really needed in situations of this type, is persons who are trained in a sympathetic approach and with a full and comprehensive understanding of mental illness- someone who will bring calm to the situation and take the person to a Facility where they can receive proper medical treatment. Could you imagine calling the Police to assist you in dealing with your Dad or your Daughter who is mentally ill, and they end up dead, shot by Police?? Something is not right here! Something is fundamentally wrong!! The entire SYSTEM needs to change.

It is important for the Public to understand that, when a Police Officer takes his gun out and aims it at you, he or she aims at CENTRAL CORE. That means Chest and Upper Abdomen. That means they intend to Kill You. I have a problem with that aspect of their Training. I think that alternative, non lethal force can be used rather than deadly force in a number of instances, especially if the person is mentally ill.

Written by Dr. Wycliffe Baird

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