Tag Archives: mental health

Protecting the Phoenix Police While They Protect Us

It is easy to see Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia has trouble with his eyesight.  The dark framed glasses line his face and aid his eyesight.

Glasses have not helped him see identify the mental health problems right in front of him during his tenure as Phoenix’s top cop.

Unlike other disabilities, mental health issues are invisible to the eye.  Anyone who looks at Chief Garcia can identify his eyesight disability because of his glasses.  Persons with mental health issues do not have that luxury.  When people look at them there is no distinguishing characteristic of their disability.  Instead people only see a seemingly normal individual.  And that normal individual may not be given any accommodations, as no one may be aware of the disability.

Only weeks ago, vocal calls in the community led to the Phoenix PD to announce the establishment of a new  mental health advisory board to help police with training methods when it comes to dealing individuals with mental health issues.  The action only came after high profile mental health calls had mixed and sometimes troubling results.  Perhaps the most troubling case was when the police on a mental health call, trying to get her to come in for treatment, killed the woman, whom they were there to help because she had a weapon and was making threats.

Now the calls are from within the Phoenix Police Department calling for Chief Garcia to resign for failing to recognize and support officers who have mental health issues.  Phoenix Police Officer Craig Tiger committed suicide recently after losing his job over a DUI arrest, reports Fox10Phoenix. Officer Tiger had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  He claimed an on-the-job shooting caused his PTSD, according to Fox10Phoenix.  News reports state Chief Garcia ended up firing Officer Tiger over the DUI.

Chief Garcia did not see the invisible wound his police officer had.

Others in the community just do not see it either.  The Arizona Republic’s Editorial Board argued the loss of Officer Tiger is incredibly sad, but it must not detract from the larger point that Chief Garcia is leading Phoenix PD towards integrity and respect from the community.

Perhaps, I must spell it out to the Arizona Republic’s Editorial Board. The issue is, how can we as a community expect the Phoenix Police to support persons with mental illness, if we do not support the police officers themselves who may be suffering from mental health problems.  The police have a very difficult job and encounter hazards that can take an emotional toll and in turn create mental health problems.

It is time we protect our officers, so they can protect us.

Continue reading Protecting the Phoenix Police While They Protect Us

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Phoenix Police Department Creates Mental Health Advisory Board

The Phoenix Police Department is making serious strides in how it handles situations where individuals have mental health issues.

“The board, made up of mental health professionals, will help police with training methods when it comes to dealing with mentally ill cases, and include regular reviews of protocol.”  According to reporting by ABC 15 News.

I am really proud of the Phoenix Police Department for making this first step and creating an advisory board. This is an example of the standard of professionalism set by the department.  Accepting that more could be done, Phoenix police are actively engaging experts in the community in how to handle complex situations that involve individuals with mental health issues.

As I have argued in the past, on this website, I believe the Americans with Disabilities Act creates an affirmative duty for police to accommodate individuals with known mental health problems (it must be known to the police too).  The task force could recommend what reasonable accommodations could be made by police officers during investigations.

Procedures and guidelines for police on mental health calls in Phoenix are less than clear from at least the public’s perspective.   ABC 15 News did report in the article linked to above that on each mental health call performed by Phoenix police, an officer and a Sargent trained in crisis intervention are on hand.  Presumably the crisis intervention training includes a mental health aspect — or at least I would hope so.

While many more mental health calls go on each day than are reported in the news, two high profile situations yielded very different results.

The use of deadly force during mental health calls by the Phoenix Police Department is still concerning to me.  It is not clear if non-lethal options are available, and if so, are taught as a first option in the crisis intervention training.  The news articles appear to only mention police use or potential use of guns. Perhaps this is just incomplete reporting by the local news media.  On the other hand, I would like the advisory board and for Phoenix police to focus on non-lethal options.  Of course there are times when lethal force is necessary to protect law enforcement and citizens, it should be a last resort in situations with known mental health issues.

I think that is a reasonable accommodation.

Mental Health Call Diffused By Phoenix PD

Phoenix police handled a very difficult situation where a man who suffers from schizophrenia wanted to harm others.  According to the ABC 15 News reporting.

At one point, the man had a knife and lunged at an officer.  It is reported the police officer drew his gun and thought about using it to protect himself, he ultimately did not use it.  The situation was diffused and the man was taken in for a psychiatric evaluation.

The result was not the same in mid-August where a woman wielding a hammer was killed during a mental health call when a Phoenix police officer shot her.

Looking through the index of the Phoenix Police Department Operation Orders it appears the section Mental Health Orders Tactical Response 9.7.3.F governs how mental health calls are dealt with.

I cannot analyze or share with the readers Section 9.7.3.F because it is restricted in the copy Operation Orders I have.  As this topic is in the news a few times recently, I will file an public records request and see if I can get access to this particular provision and shed some light on how Phoenix Police are expected to dealt with mental health calls.

It is important to note, once again, the Phoenix Police estimate they serve ten mental health calls a day.  It appears the vast majority of these are handled successfully without incident, such as the present case.  The police are put in a very complex and potentially very dangerous situation when dealing with mental health calls.

One residual thought I have from both incidents is why are guns only mentioned as weapons the police used or considered?  It is curious that non-lethal options are not mentioned.  It is not clear from the news articles if non-lethal means were available or used.  The Operation Orders should be able to provide a clearer picture about this.  And I hope it is a question that can be answered.