Stun Gun Use on Mentally Ill Questioned

HOUSTON (AP) - Advocates for the mentally ill are questioning Houston police officers’ use of stun guns on suspects with mental problems, many of whom were unarmed and then never charged with a crime.

Since officers started carrying Tasers in December 2004, nearly 130 people known or suspected to be mentally ill were shocked by officers responding to calls, according to a Houston Chronicle review of more than 1,000 incidents involving the stun gun.

The department also had its first Taser-related death recently that involved a mentally ill man, the newspaper reported Sunday.

Often, police knew they were responding to calls involving people with mental health issues but rarely called officers who are specially trained to deal with the mentally ill, according to police records.

“Using a Taser is easy,” said Arlene Kelly, who became an outspoken advocate for the mentally ill after her daughter was shot and killed by a Houston police officer in 1999. “There’s no waiting. There’s no need to be patient with someone who may not understand orders. The Taser has represented a step backward in how police deal with the mentally ill.”

Some of those stunned had committed violent crimes, threatened others or harmed themselves. But most were people who failed to follow officers’ orders in the fog of their mental confusion, records show.

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Stun Gun Use on Mentally Ill Questioned

I have a question for these ‘advocates for the mentally ill’, how in the hell is an officer on the street supposed to diagnose the mental capacity of a suspect?? How is he supposed to ascertain whether the guy is wired on drugs, drunk, in a mental state or suffering whatever other malady may come into play??

The officers 1st responsibility is to insure the safety of the public and himself, the safety of the ’suspect’ is a great concern but it is NOT the primary concern, and street cops aren’t psychiatrists, in nearly ALL cases, a taser stun is NOT deadly, in nearly ALL instances of use, a .40 hollow point is, you pick which one you’d rather have them experience…

I do have a suggestion for the advocates though, have the mentally ill hang a sign from their neck saying “Hello, I’m a retard, please don’t Taser me, I am on the way to the short bus and I present no threat to you or the general public”…

In the immortal words of Mr. Bill Engvall, “Here’s your sign…”

10 Responses to “Stun Gun Use on Mentally Ill Questioned”

  1. Robert Says:

    This is a big problem in our nation. Cops are supposed to be protectors of society, yet they can’t do the job without some “advocate” group and the media pointing the finger of blame at Law Enforcement.

    Rodney King- Should have got his ass beat a lot worse than he did, and he shouldn’t have got a dime from the tax payers. HE BROKE THE LAW, HE ran from the cops, HE endangered the public. HIS choice. The cops would have arrested him and he would have had his day in court, not a scratch on him.

    Every citizen has the right to due process, it is granted and observed throughout the nation, when you run from the cops, at that point all bets are off and you should relinquish your rights. You should have the right to get tased, shot or beat for endangering innocent people because of YOUR choices.

    I don’t give a shit if they are mentally retarded, the public has a right to be protected from their retarded ass too.

  2. TexasFred Says:

    I am guessing that you’ve NEVER spent any time on the street in uniform or plain clothes…

    I didn’t intend this as a personal affront to you, your child or anyone else, my remark was a sarcastic blast directed at these ‘advocates’ that have NO CLUE about what an officer faces on the street, but I HAVE faced those folks and been in situations where a split second decision on MY part meant life or death for all involved, and a Taser beats the hell out of a bullet, I guess you missed that part.. 

    Edit MY post?? Not a chance…

    When ‘advocates’ stop putting officers in danger with their ridiculous requests I may reconsider my position, until then, sorry…

  3. Robert Says:

    Patrick, I think you miss the point of the post.

    The “Mentaly Handicapped” wouldn’t be tazed or shot if they are under control. When an officer tells a person to stop, they should stop.. If they are deaf, dumb, blind or retarded that is too damn bad.

    IMO the officer and Public Safety needs to come first and BTW Pat, I do have some mentally retarded kids/adults that I do occasionally care for, the key words are CARE FOR.

    If they are not under a persons care they shouldn’t be out in public, if they are and get tazed, it is far better than being shot, your call.

  4. Robert Says:

    Patrick, I think you are bit too close to this problem, it is impairing your judgement on the comments…

    First off if the officer KNOWS he is dealing with a mentally retarded individual chances are very good that a taser would be the last resort.

    second, if patience is required to defuse the situation it will more than likely be granted. However; the number of officers in the immediate area being “patient” leaves the rest of the district uncovered.
    so if you lost a loved one, because law enforcement was unable to answer a call because they couldn’t difuse the situation in a timely manor your judgement might be different.

    third, you said it yourself that you had to use physical force to difuse a situation with your own kid, How would you like it if some advocate group wanted your child removed from your home because of that?

    you need to see this from all angles and realize officers have only a split second to make these calls.

  5. TexasFred Says:

    In the ‘old days’ the guy would have been shot to death, regardless, and the officer would have filed a report saying he was attacked and his life was in danger, justifiable homicide…

    In this day and time, the officer has a non-lethal option to subdue an out of control suspect and someone pisses and moans when their loved one isn’t killed??

    What kind of messed up shit is that??

    If a Taser doesn’t stop them, the NEXT option is 14 rounds of .40 cal, and let me tell you something, it is NOT the responsibility of the officer to make a determination in regards to the mental stability of the suspect if the officer feels his life or the life of others is threatened…

    And if you’ll pay attention, I NEVER advocated the use of ANY weapon on an unarmed individual, I am pretty damn good sized and in ‘most’ cases I can take care of whatever has to be done, but a ‘disturbed’ person, a drugged up person or a violent drunk isn’t getting me killed, and if a ‘disturbed’ person is a threat to me or more than I can handle, armed or not, that son of a bitch is going down, one way or another…

    To summarize, all I ask is this: if police know someone to be mentally ill, and they are not armed and no one is in danger, don’t use the taser.

    And there is where the SIGN comes into play, HOW does the cop on the street KNOW?? In ALL certainty?? He may not be personally acquainted with the suspect, He may not know his history, and in such a case were before me, I am responsible for ending my shift with ME intact as I go home to MY wife and kids…

    Am I a heartless bastard?? Hell yes I am, I have very little conscience, and their problems in life, while regrettable, are NOT my problems, if their family can’t control them or their physicians can’t institutionalize them and they go nuts on ME, well, I guess you know that answer…

    Now here’s the bottom line Patrick, cops aren’t psychologists, your little swipe regarding inadequate training did NOT go unnoticed, a cops job is to serve and protect, and that does NOT include ascertaining the mental health capacity of some guy going ape shit and threatening a lot of other people, if you want cops to be psychoanalysts you had better come up with a lot more pay from the tax base, that degree doesn’t come cheap, if you came here looking for sympathy because YOU feel threatened by your son, you came to the wrong place, this is the type of stuff that a cop on the street just doesn’t have the time to deal with, a street cop defuses the threat, by whatever means at hand, and then turns it over to those that DO deal with mental cases…

    I swear, some folks want cops to be their priest AND their social worker…

  6. TexasFred Says:

    Here’s the deal Patrick, I don’t give a DAMN what people think, I care about what it takes to keep an officer alive, past that, it’s all a moot point as far as I am concerned…

  7. Patrick Sperry Says:

    I think that Patrick is a bit to close to the problem for rational thinking as well.
    I didn’t spend nearly as much time as Fred in Law Enforcement, but I spent enough time to realize just how easy it is to get killed if you are not aware of things.
    I also spent well over twenty years in EMS. From my experiences there I can say with out any doubt whatsoever, that most mentally ill people are no threat at all. I can also state that unequivocally the ones that are, are dangerous as all hell. Got some magic crystal ball that can let you know before hand which of the two you are dealing with?

    I didn’t think so…

  8. Bloviating Zeppelin Says:

    I’ll again cut to the chase. I’ve had my ass kicked the worst by a nutjob who had no concept of understanding my verbal directions. We are taught, in the academy, that there exists a so-called “Force Continuum,” and that, as cops, we SHOULD tread cautiously and carefully up and down that “continuum.” It is termed a “continuum” because it is proffered as a sliding scale; that is, when the lowest amount of force, “presence,” does not deter, one moves incrementally up the scale, bit by bit. From “presence” comes “verbal direction” then up the verbal direction “volume” scale to “empty hand” and thence to other tools and tactics available on the belt and beyond.

    Except for one thing: there IS NO “force continuum.” One uses that amount of force necessary to get the job done at the time that it needs to get done. We are NOW taught, and my department has EMBRACED this in its general orders, that in ANY situation you reach for the amount of reasonable force necessary to solve the problem and that it is IMMATERIAL if that necessary amount of force involves reaching for DEADLY FORCE from the very get-go. There is no more “dabbing” one’s toe in the “force continuum” and escalating ever-so-gingerly up or down the scale. In an ideal world where time gets frozen, that would be wonderful. Life doesn’t work like that.

    Also, understand this: I couldn’t care LESS if the person I’m facing is mentally unbalanced or not. If I begin to understand that, I’ll have even LESS inclination to “await” the “force continuum” scheme. It means that person is even MORE deadly or potentially so because they do not UNDERSTAND the CONSEQUENCES of their actions and makes them even MORE dangerous for the PUBLIC and for ME.

    Also, understand this: MY job is NOT to get my ass handed to me by everyone on the street. MY job is NOT to get injured because that takes me away from my ability to handle the next call, the next day, the next week. When I am injured and “down” there aren’t 30 replacements available to take up my slack. And, I repeat: my job ISN’T to get injured or hurt at the behest of a mental case, drunk, druggie, incoherent, or other-catergoried individual.

    Nice job in EMS Patrick, and I salute your work there. But dude, you didn’t have to fight them every day. And there has been to date, NO documented case where a Tazer alone has killed someone. Invariably deaths related to Tazers deal with excited delirium (both mental and otherwise), positional asphyxia and/or persons laboring with various forms of chemicals or enhancements “on board.”

    That is why, dear sir, you do NOT see the common, “casual public” subject to Tazer deaths. People do not call me when they’re having a good day. I get called when the shit is rapidly rolling downhill. Thank you for your service in EMS but I’ll wager you haven’t worked for 27 years in emergency services as I have in a 3-million + urban environment. And in Fornicalia, where I work, we have more lawyers per-square-inch than cockroaches, and I have yet to be sued or taken to IA behind ANY of my calls where force was used.

    Let me again also be blunt: take away the tools available to cops, as LAPD does from time to time, and you limit the choices available. Go ahead: take away the Tazers. Take away the carotid constriction. Take away the baton. Take away the OC. That leaves limited options: presence, verbal directions, empty hands or deadly force. YOU do the math.

    Two classes of encountered persons or suspects still make the hairs on the back of my neck crawl: mentals and children — particularly when they have their hands on potentially deadly force. They do NOT understand the consequences of their actions and it places them directly into my LEAST TRUSTED and FIRST TO REACT WITH FORCE category. Because, understand this finally: your mentally unbalanced person is NOT going to stop me from seeing my retirement.


  9. TexasFred Says:

    BZ, Patrick, name in black, and Patrick Sperry are 2 different people, just so ya know… Patrick Sperry is on our side, he’s one of the good guys…

    Patrick, name in black on the other hand, is a half a libber that has NO concept of what the hell it takes to stay alive on the street…

    Nor how damned far I have gone to stay that way, as have you and thousands upon thousands of other officers from all kinds of departments and agencies, public and private…

    Here’s the bottom line, any officer that is killed or injured by a mentally disturbed person simply because that officer took the mental state OF that individual into consideration and let that state dictate HIS actions, was an officer that in great likelihood needed to NOT be on the street…

    Patrick, name in black, I said before, your personal situation at home is quite regrettable and I am sorry FOR that situation but it’s damn sure not going to effect ME or my ability to go home and love my family that’s NOT dysfunctional, well, for the most part… :?

    Is that a hard-ass attitude?? Yeah, it is, and if you don’t like it, stay the hell OUT of this blog, it’s the ONLY attitude you’ll get here, trust me…

  10. Bloviating Zeppelin Says:

    Fred, thanks for the clarification. My thoughts are still the same, for the same enumerated reasons above.


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