ER - 4/19/06 Everyone needs to be treated with compassion, respect

Everyone needs to be treated with compassion, respect

Dear Editor

I was profoundly saddened and upset by the killing of Cheri Moore last Friday, and very much appreciate your publishing her older brother’s comments today.

I have many questions about her death. As a new resident of this community, I do not have any information about police practice or the history of police interaction with the mentally ill, addicted and homeless.

I have personally known many terrific and heroic law-enforcement officers, and know that they have tough jobs and do the best they can.

That said, I also know that there is tremendous prejudice against people with mental-health issues. Most people assume that the mentally ill are violent and dangerous.

In fact, most people with mental illness are dangerous only to themselves. Most are frightened, confused and despairing — not violent.

The press release from the Eureka Police Department leaves many unanswered questions. If it received a call from the county Mental Health Department suggesting that Ms. Moore would react badly to police:

+ why didn’t they try plainclothes officers first?

+ Why didn’t they use friends or family members to intervene with her?

+ Did they try to find her doctor or community mental health worker and ask him or her to come over and talk with her before shooting?

+ Did they really believe she had a handgun, or did they know she had a flare gun?

+ Were all avenues explored before they shot her?

Some research indicates that up to a third of mentally ill people who are killed by police might have been trying to get the police to kill them. This means that there must be carefully wrought policies and practices to prevent tragedy.

What are the local protocols for the use of deadly force? Do police here have access to tools such as pepper spray, nets, non-lethal bullets, stop sticks, taser guns? What is the training for law enforcement about the needs of the mentally ill? Is there a multidisciplinary crisis response team in place?

As a community, we are responsible for the law-enforcement response. We must ensure that there are no throwaway people, that we all are treating everyone with compassion and respect.

Susan G. S. McGee

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