The Thin Blue Line

On the topic of the police I have a few perceptions to share. I was always met with decency regarding the police in my sometimes all too common proximity. I have several high school friends who are police officers and knowing them as youngsters I can account for their possession of the mundane and common. None of them were in the habit of throwing themselves on firecrackers to save bystanders. At least two are jerks so some do get through.
Why do police officers conduct a ceremonial march down the streets of Canadian cities every time an officer is killed? No other public service workers in our society partake in such a march whenever one of their members is killed on or off the job. Possibly they are humble enough not to create a scene of their service. For many wearing a uniform would be enough. These marches are intimidating and create an impression that police are distinct and somehow different from the rest of society. Do these marches convey that these individuals are here to serve or to stand together as separate and sanctified? I would argue that these processions and displays are detrimental to community relations.
I am uneasy with a police officer’s ability to justify most if not all use of force. They and we believe “they put their lives on the line every day.” As such it becomes believable to an investigator, jury, commanding officer and the general public that an officer was in fear of their life. Such a defence is harder to prove for a common citizen. My question is does it serve the public to have officers capable of calling such fear as evidence of justification for use of inappropriate force.
Should a police officer have a special defence of behaviour while in uniform? To wield a baton before a voice may be a necessity but we need to be careful that it isn’t necessarily used and more importantly defensible by a misperception of danger and accountable only to officer standards.
The numbers out of the United States where I would proclaim it is proportionately more dangerous as statistically measurable through the number of legally obtainable handguns are that mundane citizen’s murder rate was 5.4 per 100 000 while police was 5.76 per 100 000.
Perceptually to be a cop in America is as dangerous as living in about half of the country’s 75 largest cities. Additionally being a police officer is as safe as the sixties. It isn’t bigger guns or better armour as assaults have dropped comparatively. There are few who are thankless to police and fewer enough to offend, assault or endanger in any way.
In short it is more dangerous to be a fisherman, farmer, driller and at least a dozen more occupations. It could be argued that chaos would ensue were it not for police employees but cars don’t run on water yet, fish is a purchase only item for most of us and to be without agricultural products quickly creates chaos. We each owe a debt of gratitude to police employees but to a farmer I owe as much, to the steel worker who makes her plow and to the driller that gases the functions of farming and more.
This nation was built with dynamite and danger. Fathers, husbands and daughters have tangled in nets and been torn by timber. Families and communities were saddened. Were we to have fancy funerals for farmers like we do for those employed in police services we would soon see the fallacy of the risk we perceive around these occupations. I’m in no way speaking to specific officers but most must sleep as well as many of us. There is no man, woman nor child who can guarantee a return to the door of home on any day. We all live with mortality, all I ask is that we acknowledge the truth of who stands closer.
Were we to have marches for farmers like we do for police we would soon see the fallacy of the frequency. Each officer’s casket is etched into the minds of all Canadians but why? Most work for the benefit of others or in some form of service. Is it not a brave thing to die under a log participating in the process of providing 2 by fours for shelter? Is it not honourable to produce food for strangers and be crushed by a combine?
Does it seem odd an officer can call to a fear for life while also claiming a voluntary and utterly brave execution of duties?
Last year in Guelph we had one of these fantasy funerals for Constable Jennifer Kovach. My sympathies go out to her family and friends but travelling at 115 kilometers per hour on icy roads in a 50 kilometer zone is not heroic. It is a reckless endangerment of fellow citizens in the support of one of their own. Thankfully Jennifer hit an empty bus but would we have draped her coffin with a flag and marched if there were half a dozen of the rest of us dead? It is a tragedy but sadly laughable that the police themselves are saying a seat belt wouldn’t have saved her. I guess they should change the signs to “Seat belts Save Civilians.”
If we pause for each fallen officer and shut down streets so they can show solidarity to each other it might be a nice gesture if a few more officers showed up at the funerals of those who die at police hands: men on streetcars with severe and persistent mental illness, patients in hospital gowns with scissors and Polish passengers in some delirious stress induced panic. Wear your best for them and I don’t have a problem wearing my best for you. If it is a public service some meaningful demonstration of mourning is befitting. What we usually get is a search for justification and removal of responsibility.
In Canada during 2008 there were nearly five work related deaths per working day. Considering the national attention a police funeral receives it’s not hard to see that few of these are police deaths. We have a National Day of Mourning on April 28 for those who are not part of the “thin blue line” enough said.

Taser Use On Mental Illness

What is the specific need for a 370 percent increase in Tasers for the London Police Force? What exactly is happening or about to happen in London that there is call for an increase in the arsenal of officers?
An enforcement perspective may not provide the best response for the public. I mainly hear enforcement agencies calling for Taser use and proliferation and I am worried that such endeavors are more important to enforcement than public safety when it comes to mental health.
I attended a presentation by the Chief of Police at Regional Mental Health Care London. During the questions following, someone asked about the use of Tasers on mentally ill individuals. In answer, the chief insisted its use was preferable to other measures and rationalized its use as nothing to be alarmed at as officers themselves shoot each other. My question to that anecdotal argument is how many officers were at the time suffering from a serious mental illness? To assume it is harmless because officers themselves have tested it is short sighted and dangerous. What a healthy individual can endure and recover from can be an entirely different point for someone who is not healthy or specifically mentally ill.
In mental health matters sometimes a voice command is ineffective. Consider that behaviour creates the police response and symptoms are responsible for this impairment and may further hinder the individual from effecting a safe and healthy interaction with police. Warning someone who is unable to respond appropriately is seemingly productive but predominantly pointless.
The chief seemed pleased that 24 of the times the Taser was pulled individuals complied with voice commands. Possibly he needs to consider those who in fact hear other voices. Voice commands may not induce co-operation in a mentally ill individual. If the Taser is present and pulled in an instance of mental illness I would argue that the rate for its use will be higher. Symptoms create the non-compliance so they need to be reacted to as an illness rather than using only enforcement guidelines. This is a health concern and I doubt 12 weeks at Ontario Police College qualifies anyone to administer a potentially lethal voltage to mentally ill civilians.
Fifty thousand volts causing uncontrollable muscle contraction and pain I fear will become some sort of police prescription for people with mental illness who are better served with alternative means of communication and apprehension.
Exposing an individual who is displaying mental illness; a health issue or even disability to an electrified incapacitation has yet to be documented as safe or ethical. If we are applying volts to a medical condition what specifically is officer training in its application to mental health. They don’t let the custodian administer Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in a hospital but we will have police trained mainly in enforcement doing something similar and without anesthetic.
There are no reports specifically addressing the mental health effects of Tasers. I can think of no better indicator of disregard for mental health than to market and procure a product which has not been proven safe as applied to individuals with mental illness. In a study of 184 Taser related deaths 19 percent were people with mental illness or as they say one in five. Why are the one in five overlooked regarding the safety and efficacy of Taser use?
Tasers may contribute to an already high level of arousal in agitated individuals and thus death. It should be brought to the chief’s attention that people taking prescribed anti-psychotic medications are already at increased risk of sudden cardiac death. I would like to know what protocol is in place to ensure the use of a Taser in the case of mental health matters is considered a potentially lethal intervention. There are individuals who should be considered dangerously susceptible to the adverse effects of Taser use and who are at risk of death.
There is no information on the long or short term effects of Taser use on individuals who have bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia or any mental health disorder. The Taser is a product being used on the public and as such should be conclusively proven to be of little to no risk to all individuals in society but specifically for those who are compromised by illness and vulnerable to police interaction. These individuals are disabled in many cases. Taser International should answer for the oversight but also Chief Brad Duncan. Having such a keen eye for mental health matters I am surprised he so readily embraces a means of enforcement that has no footing in science with respect to its application in mental health matters.
The effects of Taser use on the mentally ill will hopefully never be known as it would be unethical to discover and counterproductive to a civilized and compassionate society. To assume harmlessness on the basis of self use is being callous to the experiences and suffering of those who experience or are touched by mental illness. When the police are involved in a mental health call, enforcement needs to mesh with medicine. To not consider or study the traumatizing effects of Taser use on mental illness is stigma.
It needs to be considered that the use of Tasers is the worst intervention for those with mental health needs. We would assume as much if it were epilepsy or diabetes. The Taser has been attributed to deaths and increasing its availability will increase its use which in turn increases the likelihood of tragedy by a percentage similar to its proliferation.
I don’t see a request for funds to increase officer training and education in mental health but the chief needs 350 000 dollars for the purchase of a product which has not been studied let alone proven to be harmless to individuals suffering from mental illness. The chief himself has pointed out the ballooning mental health scenarios police are involved in. To increase the presence of Tasers on such contacts creates a health concern for some of London’s most vulnerable citizens.
The chief may not be unbiased in the implementation of Tasers as his perspective is enforcement rather than medical and he is charged with keeping his officers safe. Are we increasing officer safety while decreasing public safety or at least the safety of a vulnerable segment of our community? I can understand that the Taser is a means of gaining compliance and would possibly mean deploying fewer officers but should it be over someone’s dead body?
The chief also overlooks that the use of Tasers in mental health emergencies has a negative impact on subsequent engagement with mental healthcare. It increases the perception of coercion. Consider the likelihood of seeking assistance after being traumatized by a Taser. These are patients we are processing not criminals we are dissuading.
The use of police services can exacerbate the difficult life circumstances facing people with mental illness and their families. Do we sincerely wish to expose these individuals to Taser use? It becomes difficult to dismantle stigma when we are witness to law enforcement over involved in mental health care. When we use the police we expose those who suffer from mental illness to enforcement practices rather than best practices.
People with mental illness on average have three to five times more contacts per year with police. They are two to three times more likely to be charged and four to six times more likely to be arrested. Being charged and arrested at a rate that is disproportionate to the general population leads to a disproportionate susceptibility to Taser use. I’m sure the chief of police would agree that an increase of 370 percent of any weapon would make an impact on incidents of use.
If the police are going to apply 50 000 volts to mental illness it should be investigated to truly understand its dangers and effects both long term and short term. If the chief is as concerned about mental health as he claims he owes it to Londoners to do everything he can to have officers reaching for skills rather than weapons no matter how innocuous he claims they are.
Chief Brad Duncan used the words that need to be budgeted for: de-escalation, dialogue and communication. If we arm officers with these tools of enforcement we wouldn’t need more Tasers.
According to the chief, police respond to behaviour and agitation is used as an indicator for Taser use. People with mental illness have a higher probability of displaying behaviours which create an interaction with police. When these behaviours are symptoms of a health concern the police must be mindful of their actions worsening an individual’s health or contributing culpably or not in the death of an ill person. As police were it your brother hearing voices, confused, scared, agitated would you be as comfortable with applying those volts?
In reference to policing and mental health the chief said we are “spending a lot of dollars not well” $350 thousand to be precise.

 

210 days until Christmas

I had an acquaintance pass away. He was in his late 40’s and a fellow patient in a hospital he and I lived in. I don’t know his history but I was on a forensic unit 484 paces from him on an adult ward which did not involve justice.
At certain points in my treatment and rehabilitation I was able to access areas which met my ears with “How many days until Christmas?” I don’t clearly remember the first time I heard Frank (a pseudonym) ask and reply with the exact number of days until Christmas.
Frank stuck out in my experiences as only a few have. On days I wasn’t sure what all the pain was about he pointed me to Christmas. Who doesn’t have at least one great Christmas memory? I never knew it but when he shouted it at me, it was piercing me with hope. I don’t know where hope gets you but thinking back to being without hope I can hear Frank’s simple words.
I didn’t watch TV or read a sports page for a few years but after meeting Frank I often knew the scores. Frank demonstrated that interest in anything can excite the soul. I didn’t really have a passion or so it seemed but it always cheered me that he was a fan.
I didn’t see many different faces while in hospital but Frank’s life carried lessons for me. Frank struggled but usually with joy in his heart. I say usually because I saw him cry at losing in the hospital BINGO once. I did not see a sore loser, I saw a man who put his whole heart into things. If disappointment brings tears it points to desire, it points to enthusiasm, it points to passion. If you can understand an Olympian weeping at loss you can understand Frank’s tears. He was giving it his all.
When I think of Frank I will remember that a voice and words can be the hand that pulls us past our disappointment, our losses, and our pain. Some days one of the few to speak to me would be Frank. Sometimes when you hear something it doesn’t take sprout until much later. I was impacted I thought by the repetition but in fact it was the distance between whenever and Christmas. There was always a measurable space between what I was enduring and what I would enjoy.
210 days until Christmas Frank, thanks for the gift.

 

Making My Nurse A Welder

The photo’s I have seen recently of Tim Hudak look as though he’s casting a glance for the truth. He knows it is in the room but pretends it’s in the hall. All I hear is something about a million jobs but what can be expected from a conservative government? Ask a nurse. To Tim Hudak a nurse is somehow a medical luxury, frivolous to treatment and the beginning and end of mismanaged health care dollars. I am all for efficiency but when it interferes with efficacy it becomes dangerous in a health care setting. Health care workers are the light bulb to the whole electrical system. If we reduce their numbers the rest of the components of healthcare are gears missing teeth. What good is a gurney if there is no one to push it?
Tim Hudak came out to party faithful with a promise to cut 100,000 public sector jobs. A week later he’s adding carrots and onions to a broth he threw down the drain. I have seen photo’s of Mr. Hudak beside banners of this 1 000 000 promise but he seems as perplexed as the rest of us with a proficiency for grade 5 math. If you shed 100,000 jobs shouldn’t the well thought out banner read 1 100 000? Optics and the fact Tim might stumble having to say more than the slogan one million has lead to its proliferation.
If the provincial conservative campaign starts out with a mathematical miscalculation or worse, misleading numbers, I dare not think what they might do with governance. If I am to believe that this one million includes the to be cut workers, I can only assume Tim Hudak has some master plan behind making my nurse a welder.

Postcard’s To My Peers

The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is 3.2 million. When I was that age there were only a few.
Why is that? I’m not smart enough to know but I can talk about mental illness thirty years ago. Mental illness was not talked about as it is these days. I don’t recall a word spoken about it until it was I.
I was the only overtly mentally ill person in my high school. No one appeared to be anorexic and the only medication names on tongues were mine. None of my friends had a diagnosis or prescription for anti-depressants. Ritalin wasn’t in every classroom; it wasn’t even in the school. No one had Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in any of my classes from 2 to 12.
Stigma was mostly my imagining I’m sure. I don’t recall any specific disrespect but there were no anti-stigma campaigns, no celebrities with experiences. I felt fairly singular and didn’t have a lot of fun being me. I was a cutter before it was fashion and to place a tattoo over my scars then would have been as unusual. My symptoms were postcard’s to my peers from places they had not named yet. I would not be properly diagnosed for more than a decade. It’s difficult to find the right dose when you don’t know what you’re aiming at.
There were six or eight of us when I was 15 on the psychiatric adolescent unit at the children’s hospital in London. One of my roommates was a young boy who broke my Walk-man. At another time my roommate had bi-polar or manic-depressive illness as they called it then. There was a young girl with anorexia and a few other patients with varying symptoms.
Why is it that were I a student at any high school today I would find others with symptoms, diagnosis, hospitalizations etc? Why is my adolescent uniqueness now a journey for many more?
Today, 8 out of every 100 teens have serious depression. My high school of 400 would today contain 31 others similar to me.
Is mental illness in fact more prevalent and if so why?

A Disservice to Common Sense

When a party governs, it is a disservice to common sense let alone the nation to make decisions based on the likelihood of re-election. There is no winner when the governing powers essentially maintain a political campaign. There are solutions and we must look to future generations as well as our own. Dad might have a job but what does the child or grandchild inherit?
What if what is presently beneficial is for longer detrimental?
How can a government make just decisions and legislative calculations to the benefit of anyone when the criteria are optics and polls? The rearrangement, manipulation and creation of laws and agencies of the land in the name of some anti-dialogic dynasty is repugnant and willfully an abuse of the powers of governance.
In Canada we have a parliamentarian and senator who fully construct arguments on the footing of lies. These individuals have excused themselves of their fables but what does it do to democracy. I can’t control who ends up in power but it has always been my understanding that whoever is elected will be and find peers who are truthful.
Parliament should not be used as a playground where statements can be entered to fowl the nation but retracted to retain ones seat. If I stand to lie should I have the privilege to sit and represent my constituents and nation?
If we have parliamentarians and senators excusing themselves of statements and paragraphs of what should be sworn word, I can only wonder where else spring lies. These individuals swear an oath and pledge to conduct themselves in the best interests of the country. These statements have grown into a national fancy. Voter fraud didn’t appear rampant unless you were in the House of Commons or the upper chamber.
I can see a more direct path to democracy and good governance when those who speak for thousands use the truth. Outside of parliament, lies that can be proven in court are perjury. It seems incredulous to have people who manufacture laws to be immune to them. If there is no repercussion for lies and misleading where can we find discouragement? If a parliamentarian or senator can be found to be a liar what further trust can we find in the oath to conduct oneself in the best interests of the country.
The call is ours. Do we want nation builders or party strategists?

“One of the things that I have seen is I’ve seen on mail delivery day, when the voter cards are delivered to community mailboxes in an apartment building, we often find that many of them are actually just discarded,” Mr. Butt said on Feb. 6. “They’re in the garbage can or in the blue box. I have actually witnessed other people coming in, picking up voter cards, going back to, I guess, whatever campaign of the candidate they support, and actually handing out those voter cards to other individuals, who then walk into a voting station with a friend of theirs that vouches for them with no ID.” Brad Butt Member of Parliament

“I can tell you that vouching is a problem,” Mr. McInnis said, “It’s not just vouching. I’ve witnessed it personally on the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth. It is a problem. Many of these people, first of all, don’t even know who the candidates are and haven’t been involved. That doesn’t absolve them from the right to vote; I realize that. I’ve seen people take them in and almost mark their ballot. That’s how serious this is, and it’s thousands and thousands.” Senator Thomas McInnis

Why are these men lying? Is it an attempt to promote something beneficial to their constituents or beneficial to their politics?

Leash On The Larynx

I read an article about student organizations at Duke University and their “Think Before You Talk” campaign. The aim is to re-evaluate and spread awareness about commonly used phrases and their impact.
Language is important and a behaviour that springs from thoughts, perceptions, beliefs and attitudes. Certain words become taboo and or even disgraceful but despite their banishment the sentiments remain in the dictionaries of our hearts.
It is important to be careful about some phrases and expressions, they can become habit. We seldom consider what a word or phrase means to the person or group singled out. We can remove words from our lexicon but the meanings carry into new ones. You don’t hear the word Nutter much but you can catch the flavour even in song lyrics which reference bi-polar. If a person refers to something as Gay we can socially reject its use but from where it stems may never be altered. For some it becomes a mental maneuver to ensure social acceptance.
Making it unacceptable to speak with certain phrases will have an effect on prejudice and stigma but a thought will still be a thought. If I think in a derogatory fashion watching my tongue will not change the attitude which wags it. If I keep a derogatory remark to myself it is unlikely to change the values or judgements I place on people who are different from me.
In some small way when someone can be devalued and thus held with less regard it can be a boost to self esteem. If a group or individual become a putdown it is made by someone who wishes to be more. Possibly that individual is threatened and or confused as to their own status. We need to change the thoughts behind the use of offensive slang. These thoughts have become ghettos for people different from some imaginary homogeneous ideal.
It is more helpful to change the attitudes which give rise to offensive remarks. If we censor the tongue, what rattles in the mind continues. Not using certain phrases changes what is passed and where but a bigot can stand next to those he hates with a leash on his larynx.