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.