Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Thin blue line isn't a safety net

Anyone who doubts that law enforcement are increasingly the ones responding to people with mental illnesses who are in crisis needs only to read the news.

Two stories today show examples, from different angles, how the safety of both law enforcement and citizens is compromised when the mental health community abdicates their responsibility to care for people with the severest mental illnesses.

In a courtroom in Athens, Alabama jurors listened to police radio transmissions from the day Farron Barksdale killed two officers. Barksdale had called police asking to be directed to the FBI. When police arrived at his home Barksdale shot ten rounds from an assault rifle at the police cars.

Barksdale, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In Texas, police were called when Jose Vasquez, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, got “out of control”. When Jose charged at his family with a garden hoe, officers fatally shot him.

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