Priscilla has to bluntly ask, “Do you guys really need ten people to hold him down?”
He responds, “Yes, we do. The guy just broke through a locked door and he is intoxicated along with using drugs.”
I said, “Oh I didn’t think it was that serious.”
We shared our disappointment with the system that puts police at the front line of Mental illness without any proper training. These poor rookies had no idea what to do with this man, as that is not what they signed up for. Of course, they have to deal with this population, but on a daily basis as much as a social worker might visit a client. Police officers are underestimated for all the work they have to do not even involving crime especially with the constant arrests and hospitalizations with this population.
This guy, Richard, said he’s been on the force for thirty years and he is about to retire. He has seen it all when it comes to the panhandling, drug use, theft, and crime on the streets. Average people who couldn’t make the bills, lost their job, or had an addiction problem-the streets took them in and they stayed committed to that lifestyle. Many don’t have interest in “getting a job and having an apartment.” The street is a preferred choice for them. Richard did express concern for this population as the system has not correctly addressed this problem for years except by engaging in control and giving them $400 a month to solve the problem. Money cannot buy the homeless out of their problems. PCR
As ten of them were struggling to keep him on the ground, I understood why they needed ten people. He kept complaining about his leg, but there was not one indication that they were mistreating him at all. Richard got a call and left, therefore, I decided I would try and speak with four or five of them to have an open, honest discussion about their job empathizing and thanking them for their hard work. The 45 year old man had already been placed in the stretcher and they were just interviewing the restaurant owner.
When I asked how many hours of Mental health training, they reported 40 hours of training when they start the job. What training do they receive when these real experiences are happening and they need to discuss them to learn about symptoms and identify similar patterns-NONE. Receiving forty hours of Mental health training is great for a starter, but the learning needs to a professional, educational, and social setting. When they show you how to break in a house, they should show you how to address a homeless man who is high on meth. An idea I believe in is focus groups once a week with 5-8 officers to share these cases, identify symptoms, situations, background information etc. If an officer has the experience, takes some notes, and then processes these encounters with others-it makes the process easier.
This is just a serious problem that we have no control over.”-Brian-
The Mental health system also has its fair share of work to do in regards to collaborating with the police. The police follow their protocol to bring this man into the hospital. He is unmedicated, has an illness, give him a prescription and he signs himself out. The hospital is supposed to be “the cure,” but when it comes to the Mentally Ill-many of them know how to work the system and it’s not to their own benefit.
This could be broken down with clearer specifications, but the point being made is that these officers shared honestly their inability to help this population. They get their training, they follow protocol, but at the end of the day-they just don’t get it. They share stories with their loved ones about the “crazy guy” they arrested today. The negative labels and the stigma continues to get worse. Why? The lack of education and experience that is broken down and processed overtime. Mental illness is not easily understood and for them being twenty five years old and thrown into a job that deals with this population everyday-it’s tough.
Thank you police in San Francisco for being kind and doing your best. It’s not easy work, but you are appreciated for working on the streets of SF with constant harmful activity.