People smarter than me have clearly explained the underlying institutional dysfunctions that ensure the next police shootings.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown accurately stated that law enforcement has become the safety system in schools, a primary community mental health service provider, and of course the armed responder to a growing number of society’s violent problems.
Recently, Minnesota sheriffs from Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington Counties wrote a half page Star Tribunearticle threatening to sue the State for failing to provide timely mental health services to people locked up in their jail cells. This failure has turned law enforcement into a provider of mental health services to a large and growing population of often dangerous people.
MN Law enforcement officers killed 12 people in 2015 and each year are dealing with more unstable people and potentially dangerous encounters with the wrong training needed to slow this racially unbalanced social dysfunction.
This public health issue of mental health and the violence and dangers it presents will never be dealt with effectively by Law Enforcement (or teachers, or social workers or other untrained service providers).
Sheriffs, police and police chiefs talk about dealing with this growing number of unpredictable, mentally unstable people (and even whole families). They know that the center cannot hold and that when the weak link breaks bad things happen.
As a Hennepin County volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I have come to know many second and third-generation families of under-treated traumatized children with drug problems, violent boyfriends and serious mental health problems. These children soon have their own next generation of neglected and abused (traumatized) children.
Abused and neglected children bring their traumas and behavioral problems to school and into our neighborhoods for all of us to manage as best we can. Teaching, law enforcement and social work are much harder because of it. If you are or know a foster family or adoptive family you know what I’m talking about.
About a third of the youth in child protection are proscribed psychotropic medications nationally. In 2014, 20,000 one and two-year old children were proscribed Prozac and similar medications. About 2/3 of the youth in the Juvenile Justice System have mental health issues and half that number have serious, chronic and multiple issues.
Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz stated that “the difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years” and she clearly defined the problem by stating that 90% of the youth in the Juvenile Justice System have come up through the Child Protection System.
Almost all felons have passed through the Juvenile Justice System. We will never build enough prisons or jails to manage our current approach to mental health and traumatized citizens.
Add to that a substantial number of under-treated, shell shocked military veterans that have become law enforcement officers, the militarizing of of police departments throughout the nation and the violence happening on our city streets becomes understandable (inevitable).
It would help if more lawmakers understood these issues and voted their conscience instead of their politics for the policies governing our lives and well-being as a society.
If this article resonates with you, please share it widely (especially with your legislators & people that impact policy).