Measurable As Murder

Police officers are trained that at 20 to 30 feet a person with a weapon can close in on them and cause serious harm. If officers themselves create this unsafe distance it becomes measurable as murder.
Sammy Yatim was shot eight times while holding a knife on an empty streetcar. When officers first arrived the distance was safe and no one was near Sammy. Sammy stayed on the streetcar so it goes without saying that the dangerous distance was created by officers themselves. Instead of firing eight shots into a community and distressed individual the situation could have been contained and a negotiator or anyone else with people skills could have been called on. Sammy could have been left on the streetcar all night until he fell asleep, but he fell dead.
Here in Ontario police cadets at Ontario Police College are trained for 12 weeks. Is it difficult to imagine that a highly experienced and educated psychiatric nurse could be trained in those same 12 weeks? I would argue that a psychiatric nurse armed with police tactics would be capable of dealing with someone on an abandoned streetcar who has a knife.
There have been instances of nurses in hospitals dealing with patients who are brandishing sharps. Those incidents have never resulted in a patient being shot 8 times and Tasered for good measure. How is it half a dozen brave highly trained officers end up pulling pistols to answer a knife? Cowardice is the first word I come up with but callous stupidity may be closer to the mark.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have recently made mental health issues a priority for Ontarians. After well over 100 years dealing with individuals with mental illness it is as pathetic as it is progressive to finally make mental health training a priority.
Any who are familiar with my modus operandi will not be surprised at my lack of excitement at such news. I am unlikely to send the new commissioner a card expressing my gratitude at hundreds of officers finally knowing half as much as they should. If the Ontario Provincial Police were involved in an excess of tax fraud would they blanket officers with training in accountancy or would they approach government with a call for expertise from outside their ranks?
In 2012, the Ontario Provincial Police responded to over 27,000 occurrences involving 7,192 people identified in the OPP’s Niche Records Management System (RMS) as “mentally disordered.” Training officers in mental health matters is a beginning but it would be more productive to leave medicine to healthcare workers. Nurses don’t surround a bank robbery but cops surround a mental health matter. Why? Why do we not question the police being involved in mental health?
Some will say I am a mouth piece and in particular would likely wet myself under similar circumstances. I soundly proclaim to have been placed in more dangerous situations without backup, bulletproof vest, sidearm or any training. Outside of that I was not paid over $60 000 and it was not my job. Citizens are to be protected not perforated with bullets when the hair on the back of your neck goes up. We are lead to believe police officers have some chokehold on courage but it resides in each of us. Some would scream but as many would do as well if not better.
My first contact with London’s Chief of Police started with me querying about the man with scissors that was shot dead wearing a hospital gown. The chief proclaimed that he had a pair of scissors as though it was a foregone conclusion that an officer would have likely died. I’m not privy to the filtering of who becomes a police officer but I would suggest weeding out the men and women who are afraid of someone trapped on a streetcar with a knife. If you’re afraid of scissors stay home.
The cops and robbers mentality is fun on a playground but in real life not all citizens involved in a police exchange are bad people.
I had a friend in high school who pleaded with a police officer not to charge him as he was interested in becoming a police officer himself. The officer’s response was “you put your pants on one leg at a time don’t you?” Obviously my friend was no different from anyone else. He was not special but the officer painted himself with the same obvious nature of humanity. We all put our pants on one leg at a time. Officers do not need impunity as much as they need integrity. In the real world when someone makes a catastrophic mistake on the job they are fired. Police forces could and should purge themselves of any officer who is derelict in their duties. Police unions end up ensuring the chaff is part of the service. Officers are not infallible unless you ask one. When officers are aggrandized it minimizes the value of the rest of us and perpetuates these sad statistics.
In Ontario we have the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to investigate serious incidents involving police officers. It is composed of 54 full and part time investigators. Forty-seven are former police officers. I’m jaded but that’s about as logical as making five year olds daycare supervisors. In 97 percent of cases the investigation exonerates the subject officer. This is statistically suspect if not sad. It’s not much more than a catch and release program.
What needs to be done differently? Actually the change needs to be in attitudes. The citizen needs to be regarded as someone’s son, sister or child. Paint people with the similarity of neighbours and you’re less like to Taser, shoot and beat them. An attitude of better than and separate leads to brutality.

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.

 

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.

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?

We Need Clinicians Not Cops

The headline for the London Free Press today was   “Mental health cop calls soar 40 percent.”
The article goes on to explain that mental health calls are costing the police more than $14 million now which is “chewing” up roughly 15% of their budget. We have a veteran city councilor agreeing that the police department is justified in saying these are health issues-not police issues-and we need the federal and provincial governments to get onside.
I’m a simple man but now that we’re all onside lets have the province and in fact Ottawa step in and redirect that $14 000 000. Policing does not improve mental health but rather mental health care improves mental health.
Chief Brad Duncan has according to the article voiced concerns about the issue for years and in fact repeated them just last week after a meeting of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
I believe we should have a total cost figure for police forces across Canada to determine the amount that we are funding police to deal with mental health matters. It is my assumption that any amount should be mainly diverted into health care services and possibly the creation of mental health care teams who can work at a street level and not only deliver mental health care but divert it to the appropriate services.
We can specifically train officers to respond to the dangerous instances of mental illness which are few and far between. We need clinicians not cops. If a health care worker can do what is presently done by an officer I see no reason to require the officer to stray from their criminal and safety matters.
Having in this case some portion of $14 000 000 put directly into mental health care services will then eliminate their call to such funds which will reduce their budgets. Unlike Mr. Bud Polhill I do not see a great need to find new money from taxpayers when it can be diverted.
We can then turn to honing the training of officers in response to mental health crisis intervention which sometimes come to a tragic end. If they are left to deal with necessary initial contacts they can then specialize in assessing danger and better recognize that dealing with symptoms is different.
I can agree with the chief that reasonable and beneficial application of funds needs to occur. It needs to be applied firstly with thought to those who need assistance through illness. If we are going to shift from policing mental illness to treating it as early as possible it should be the least stigmatizing and most therapeutic.
This funding needs to be better applied to the mental health consumers of this community. At the end of the day I can see no argument in that. If we can expand the mobile mental health unit run by the Canadian Mental Health Association it can only benefit those with mental health difficulties. If the police are spending $14 000 000 diverting a portion can only improve the mental health experiences of Londoners.
I have few complaints regarding the police in all my contact. I have sat behind some fine officers. Men and women I have always carried respect for. The only point I wish to make is that it is stigmatizing to have a recognizable police vehicle pull in front of a home, and enter it with guns. What do neighbours come to believe about the individual but also the illness?
It is detrimental to the fight against stigma to continue to police mental illness. It coats those with mental illness with a degree of criminality. This feeds and strengthens one of the biggest myths about mental illness. That being that the mentally ill are violent. We need prompt and proper delivery of mental health care just as it can be expected for physical health. If I need physical health care I tend to see those specifically and intensively trained in healthcare. If I need mental health care I tend to see police officers whose training is less specific and intense. To accept and continue with the use of police officers in the application of mental health services is a form of discrimination. We would be aghast to find the same with respect to physical illness.
We need a healthcare version of mental health service not a policing version. Agreed. It does not seem a leap to continue with the police to administer to calls which may need police tactics to ensure safety. Most calls should safely be diverted into the hands of highly trained healthcare workers. We need the police for what the police do best.
The sooner we can divert this funding into a safe, therapeutic and destigmatizing model, the sooner mental health services will improve for all Londoners.
Thank you Chief Duncan.

Irony

The troubles with regards to Corrections Canada and the political apathy that has hung like a cloud for decades over the conditions inmates with mental illness are exposed to has been put in perspective for me this morning. I feel a little foolish having for so long gone on about people like Ashley Smith and the recent coverage by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of inmates with mental illness kept in solitary confinement. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation delivered to my plate a headline that almost makes me want to eat my words.

“Turkey farm video shows “gaping hole” in government animal welfare oversight”

“’The birds are not being properly monitored’ said Ian Duncan, an animal welfare expert with the University of Guelph.” I checked for a comparable expert somehow connected to Corrections Canada but he or she must be out to lunch.

Don’t get me wrong, the treatment of turkeys is important to me. Turkeys deserve dignity and respect if we are going to smother them with gravy. There can be no doubt that these are “disturbing images”, unlike a solitary cell with a mentally ill inmate shackled to his cot and his toilet full of urine and more.

“Mercy for Animals Canada has also filed a complaint with the Ontario Provincial Police, which has launched a criminal investigation. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) is also investigating.” My Turkey a la King will be much easier to swallow knowing we have these agencies and that they have powers and are so willing to act on behalf of turkeys.

“There’s not much being done right now and it’s a major concern” says Geoff Urton with the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The turkeys themselves must be buoyed knowing something is being done and we have agencies and police forces in each province able to advocate and intervene.

“Ultimately, there should be some kind of proactive inspection and monitoring compliance system in Canada. Otherwise, how can anybody know how these animals are being treated?” Seemingly, words right out of my mouth.

“A 2009 Harris Decima poll commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society (I forgot to mention that many cities have their own agencies in case the provincial ones drop the ball) found that 72 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they were willing to pay more for meat that was certified humane.” I wonder what the numbers would be regarding humans that are kept in cages. Human and humane seem to go together but we seem quite concerned when it is denied what is and always will be a bird.

Duncan says:”…the general public, I think if they see something like this, they’re going to be absolutely horrified. Horrified that this is how their food is being produced.”

I’ve been advocating for the humane treatment of inmates with mental illness for a while now. I guess the answer is to have those with mental illness fill their pockets with peas and pour gravy over themselves.

Enjoy your supper but be careful not to choke on the irony.

Goof’s

Criminal charges have been laid against two correctional officers and one supervisor at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ontario, Canada, in connection with the October beating death of 29-year-old inmate Adam Kargus. All three staff members were charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life. They are 47-year-old Leslie Lonsbary, 55-year-old Gregory Langford, and 52-year-old Stephen Jurkus.

It surely must have been a strange day for the three to spend some hours in jail. I suspect unlike Mr. Kargus, they were not placed with a historically violent offender. They probably weren’t bullied for their meals and I would be surprised if they even had to show their rectums like the rest of us.

I’m not sure who to swing at first. The provincial Liberals even after inquests have ignored systemic and specific problems at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC). There is blood on their hands. The Liberals and ministers have a societal if not legal duty not to endanger lives. The Liberals have not performed their duty and are negligent. They should be held responsible but will receive pensions rather than prison. They have shown complete disregard for officer and inmate safety. It may not be criminal negligence but it is clearly political negligence. They won’t find themselves in court but come election time they may not find themselves in office. Being in the provincial legislature should be an honour, not a defence. In court it is not necessary to show intent regarding negligence, it is enough to show indifference. This story involves an incident but the situation and conditions have been presented to this government for over a year and a half and it has been mishandled as long.

Don Ford who is a spokesperson for the Ontario Public Services Employee Union (OPSEU) is quoted as saying “The ministry hasn’t fixed the problems in there and now we do have a tragedy, the death of this inmate (his name was Adam)(sic)and officers being charged.” If officers being charged is a tragedy it must also be a tragedy that the murderer was charged as well. “That is just heartbreaking to be honest.” said Mr. Ford. Funny, I don’t recall OPSEU or Don Ford being heartbroken until officers were charged. That’s the problem right there. Respect and concern can be found in spades amongst guards but it is extinct in many instances between inmates and officers. It is probably a good thing that Corrections doesn’t have their own Special Investigations Unit made up of correctional officers like we have for police forces. We know that track record or is it a broken record – “found no wrongdoing.” Don Ford is also quoted as saying the murder “did not happen in isolation of conditions.” Isn’t that like saying the driver wasn’t responsible for going 100 miles per hour but rather rain slick roads were the cause of the crash?

Adam Kargus was beaten and died on October 31st and discovered at 10 a.m. on November 1st. So much for checking on your charges every 30 minutes. It will be argued that only two officers were working in a situation that required three. I would be curious to know if union breaks and meals were taken. I was a business owner and often duties fell to me that required two people. It was a flooring business but I was conscientious enough to ensure the job was done. People had kitchens and bathrooms they needed back and now a family has a son they need back.

We are talking about a minimum level of care. Can we not expect that at least from our government, its ministers and civil servants? The necessities of life are a societal standard, unfortunately correctional officers sometimes use personal standards. Hopefully Adam’s death will raise both.

Since I am calling out people I will also call out the inmates themselves. One inmate who was on the unit at the time of the murder said in court that “he was screaming for help.” The prisoner code is animalistic, immoral and perverted. Anyone who heard those screams for hours should be haunted. Your silence was the fatal blow. Your code and infantile rules such as never to call someone a “Goof” has become a nail in a coffin. A Goof is as a Goof does.