How Stupid Can It Get?

How, exactly, does one go about dismantling a police department? In Minneapolis, the president of the city council said that calling the police when your home is broken into "comes from a place of privilege" and she envisions a utopian society where there is no need for police. "I think the idea of having a police-free future is very aspirational, and I am willing to stand with community members who are asking us to think of that as the goal."


Hmmm. I responded to hundreds of burglary calls in my day as a patrol officer and detective, and most of them were in neighborhoods without much money. I don't think any of those crime victims would ever consider themselves "privileged" but I have to agree that a police-free society is an ideal to shoot for. In fact, such a place does exist: heaven.


The Minneapolis city council president did make a couple of sensible statements. One was based on a study they conducted as to why people in her city call 911. "...we're starting to pair what's the right response to those calls." In other words, if it is a mental health or physical health crisis, she doesn't want to send the police but a trained professional. I couldn't agree more.


I've said for years that police officers are not health care workers, and putting us on the front line of mental health crises is an unrealistic expectation. We are not asked to play doctor when a person breaks a leg in an automobile accident. An ambulance is called, EMTs respond, the person is transported, and a physician/surgical team in a hospital fixes them up. So why not the same response to the mentally ill?


Cops are not psychologists. We do have some training in recognizing and dealing with persons undergoing a mental health crisis, but in no way, shape, or form does that qualify us as licensed mental health professionals. According to the Minneapolis school of thought, when a 911 call comes into dispatch regarding some nut job with a weapon running amok in a neighborhood threatening to kill people, the response should be turned over to the appropriate authority, and trust me, the cops would be more than happy to "TOT" (turn over to) somebody else.


Unfortunately, that thought process, like a lot of left-leaning liberal idealistic thinking, isn't based in reality. Let's take a look at some LCPD calls from the past: Hmmm, let's start with yesterday. An 81 year-old man with a firearm and reported suicidal tendencies went berserk in the 900 block of North Tornillo and started shooting up the neighborhood. Somebody called 911. The cops responded, I guess because no psychologists were available, and when the officers arrived he fired on them. SWAT came to the party, negotiators tried to talk him out, and out he came with gun in hand. His violent aggression was stopped by officers who fired on him and the suspect died at the scene (curious to know if the DA's office is going to press homicide charges against the SWAT officers for employing an authorized use of force. We will have to wait and see which way the political winds are blowing in a few months).


I also remember the case where a man armed with a samurai sword attacked LCPD officers, coming at them with sword raised and refusing to obey commands to stop. He was shot. Believe it or not, there were actually members of the public who wanted to know why the man with the sword had to be fired on. "Why couldn't the cops just talk to him?" Right they are. If only a mental health professional from the Minneapolis school of thinking had been available...and, by golly, they will be once the police are dismantled and we have the appropriate resources at hand to deal with these types of situations.


Seriously, how stupid can it get?

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J.R. LONSWAY

AUTHOR | RETIRED DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE

J.R. Lonsway served 22 years with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, police department and retired as a Deputy Chief of Police. After retirement he served with the U.S. Department of State as a police advisor in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Liberia, Haiti, Lebanon, and South Sudan. He is a former U.S. Marine.

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