Post 3: An Image Archive on Mental Health and Law Enforcement

Mental Health Stakeholder Maps: Human, Non-Human and Analysis

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Mental Health: Human Stakeholders Map (Buisman, Lin, Mijares 2016)
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Mental Health: Non-Human Stakeholders Map (Lin, Mijares 2016)
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Mental Health: Stakeholders Analysis Map (Lin, Mijares 2016)

In constructing these maps, it’s quite clear that mental health plays a huge part in society and life – not even these maps could identify each and every stakeholder that mental health effects and influences. However, it has given me insight into how complex and intricate the very issue is. For example, there are so many factors that could instigate the early stages of mental illness such as family, friends, environment, education, financial status, religious beliefs, physical activity, media exposed to at the time, and more. The maps demonstrate how each case of mental illness can be unique and thus can be somewhat difficult to treat if we begin to generalise the entire illness. In my focus on the law enforcement’s involvement with mental health, I’ve become more perplexed and a little overwhelmed about the complexities behind their encounters with mentally ill persons. I feel I’ve become empathetic to both sides; it’s an indescribable and an intense experience when you feel your own life is threatened and so, to an extent and in varying contexts, I can sympathise with the officer, and even more so with their mental trauma in the aftermath; yet on the other hand, I can sympathise with the mentally ill and almost feel angered by the fact there needs to be serious changes in attitudes, discipline and processes to how we approach them in a law enforcement context.

Image Archive

Image 1: Satirical Comic by Chato B. Stewart
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A comic panel that’s part of a series about incidents with the police being called on street performers (Steward 2014)

This illustration by Chato B. Stewart demonstrates a common assumption on the relationship between the law enforcement and the mentally ill. In previous articles I have read, this view aligns with many forums and news outlets that call out the polices’ use of excessive force. Even more so with other medias such as television shows and movies that perpetuates these stereotypical attitudes of police which the comic seems to mock. Despite it’s obvious design flaws, what annoys me the most about the illustration is the very attitude it depicts because I know from my research that’s not how officers approach these situations at all. It annoys me that people will see this and think this is how it really is, disregarding all the other factors that come into play in these very complex and intense situations.

Image 2: Photograph by the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services
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Eureka Police officers and DHHS staff banding together to aid homeless people with severe mental illness (DHHS 2015)

This photograph accompanies an article that reports on Eureka Police in Humboldt County, California, joining with the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Mental Health staff to aid homeless people with severe mental illness. The image shows officers and staff speaking with a homeless resident; all persons shown seem engaged and genuinely interested with what they’re doing, with the officers and staff (and even from the officer at the back in uniform) having little to no intimidating or authoritative appearance. As I’ve stated before, a lot of the perspectives I’ve seen from other text sources I’ve found, is a shared common view that police encounters with the mentally ill lead to negative outcomes. Thus, positive interactions between the law enforcement and the mentally ill like this one, are buried underneath the sources that highlight the worst of the worst. It’s disheartening to say the least, especially when many call for action to change police attitudes, regimes and training in regards to the mentally ill.

Image 3: Photograph by Jesse Tinsely
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Senior Gordon Grant role-playing with his fellow officers as means of training when encountering mentally ill persons (Tinsely 2013)

This image photographed by Jesse Tinsely depicts Gordon Grant (centre), the senior patrol officer at the Spokane Police Department role-playing as a mentally ill man while other officers try to calm him down and persuade him to go to the hospital for a psychological evaluation.  In the scholarly article (2013) by Kesic, Thomas and Tribolet-Hardy, I read in my previous blog post, it emphasised the idea of a communicative centred approach for police when encountering a mentally ill person. Having a positive and genuine demeanour in balance with an authoritative one is key is part of that approach; and it’s uplifting to see this training in action. What is not shown in the image however is whether the results of the training are fruitful and effective. It’s not definite as to whether this training is the most effective way to mitigate mishaps in the encounters as every encounter is different as with the psyche of every officer and mentally ill person.

Image 4: Photograph by Mike Kepka
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Oakland police officer and mental health liaison, Doria Neff, evaluating a woman who was reported to be possibly in need of involuntary hospitalisation (Kepka 2014)

Through this image taken by Mike Kepka for The San Francisco Chronicle, the image shows the Oakland police officer and mental health liaison, Doria Neff, evaluating a woman who was reported to be possibly in need of involuntary hospitalisation. It accompanies an article that talks about how the case of Daniel Dewitt, a mentally ill person with schizophrenia who was accused of murder. It revealed the major flaw in the US mental health care system of being unable to provide adequate treatment to Dewitt, ultimately leaving his illness untreated and vulnerable. The image and article itself brings to question what is an effective way of evaluating someone’s mental state, and whether or not they need involuntary hospitalisation. Who decides that – the individual with the illness or the person who takes care of you or the person who evaluates you professionally? Either way, at this point in time, it is the person with the illness that seemingly makes the final decision. Dewitt was hospitalised involuntary nine times from 2007 to 2014, and while his parents pushed for long term treatment, his hospitalisation only lasted for a few days. In the scholarly article by Kesic, Thomas and Tribolet-Hardy, while discussing the communicative approach, they also mention the importance of freedom of choice within it – having the patient feel control over their treatment in the interaction. It’s a difficult idea to think about because these balances between the freedom and control in choice, independency and dependency, and authority and the individual is so precarious, especially when dealing with factors that are out of your control. So, while in the image we see an officer interacting and evaluating this supposedly mentally ill woman, who’s to say that this an effective way of evaluating a person’s mental health state and whether or not they are in need of long term care?

Image 5: Video Screenshot by Hilton Napoleon
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Therapist Charles Kinsey on the ground with his arms in the air trying to inform police that he is of no threat (Napoleon 2016)

This image is a screenshot from a video taken by Hilton Napoleon who witnessed a therapist, Charles Kinsey, being confronted by police while he was trying to assist his autistic patient. The image itself depicts Kinsey on the ground with his arms raised, trying his best to be compliant and innocent to the police who are interacting with him off screen, while his patient yells at him with a toy truck in his hands. It’s incredibly confusing once you find out that Kinsey was shot in the leg despite his clear compliance in this image and in the video itself. While the video and screenshot has been shared under the Black Lives Matter movement, it gives insight into how this incident played out. The incident came to action only because someone initially reported to North Miami police that there was “a man on the street with a gun threatening to kill himself.” Once arrived, police began “barking orders… [and] when the autistic man didn’t comply, an officer fired three times…” It shows how these interactions between the police and the mentally ill can be so incredibly complex and various in the multitude of cases since so many factors can come into play. A key question however, is to why the officer discharged his weapon at the first opportunity of disobedience. While it’s probably incredibly insensitive for myself to say, if Kinsey hadn’t been there, the autistic patient may have been fatally shot that day.

Image 6: Photograph by Israel Bayer
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Protesters demanding justice for James Chasse’s death holding a banner (Bayer 2010)

This photograph taken by Israel Bayer in 2010 showcases a banner in the midst of a protest for James Chasse, a poet and musician, who according to the banner, was “beaten to death by Portland police.” Public outcries are no surprise to these fatalities concerning the mentally ill. Initially upon seeing the image and of no knowledge of James Chasse’s case, I actually assumed Chasse was African-American. This is due to the many of the more recent cases I’ve seen in regarding police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement despite them not exactly focusing on the issue of mental health.  Chasse of course, was a white male, who apparently was approached by police because he was “doing something suspicious” which officers later spoke out that they assumed he was high on drugs. He died during custody from injuries in their encounter of tackling him to the ground, being punched, kicked and tasered repeatedly, “resulting in 16 broken ribs, a number of abrasions, a broken shoulder an having both lungs punctured.” In knowing that, what this image shows is the public demanding justice for violations in authority. It’s quite unfortunate to see that even despite all this outcry and even changes to police training, incidents like this still happen even today, and more protests are still being held demanding for effective change.

Image 7: Photograph by The Plain Dealer
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Jasmine Johnson, the sister of Tanisha Anderson, speaking out at a rally for Anderson on the 11th December 2014 (The Plain Dealer 2014)

This image taken by the Plain Dealer for the Cleveland can be said to be exactly the same as Bayer’s image for James Chasse – the only difference being that it was taken four years later. I say this because even despite the differing of cases, the situation is essentially the same – the police’s use of force has led to the fatality of a mentally ill person and the public is demanding justice.  In concerns with this case of Tanisha Anderson, police were called to her family home after a report of a “mentally ill woman disturbing the peace”. Anderson, after resisting the police from being taken to a medical centre for a psychiatric evaluation, was “forcibly detained, handcuffed, held down and restrained with a knee to her back while on the ground on her stomach… for at least 14 minutes before any call for medical assistance was initiated”. Moreover, because she was a woman, the officers claimed they were unable to give her medical assistance until a supervisor arrived, despite her being unresponsive in the prone position with her hands behind her back. Again, we see at the first opportunity of resistance, the use of aggressive force and immediate restraint despite the encounter being one dealing with a mentally ill person. Both this case and image highlight the malpractice of some officers even though general police practice states otherwise. This proves that common models such as the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) which are implemented for these types of situations, are not 100% effective as it only trains a portion of a police department. If all officers received this type of training as part of their introductory training, then maybe cases such as these wouldn’t have to happen and protests like the image depicts, wouldn’t be as prevalent.

Image 8: Street Art by Sharik
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Graffiti art by the hailed ‘Ukrainian Banksy’, Sharik (Sharik 2010)

This street art was created by the artist ‘Sharik’ who has been dubbed as the ‘Ukrainian Banksy’. With the numerous articles and cases that I’ve read, this image is unsurprising to say the least. The graffiti depicts a police or swat officer about to beat a boy who is already in a position of helpless defence. As I’ve stated in my previous image annotations, this attitude of the police is common and it is hard to find at least one positive thing that the police is doing to assist the mentally ill. It all really comes together as a question of authority and the role of police in society. Thus, this is why I feel as though police are seen in society in a more negative light. Even at a young age, I was warned by my parents that the ‘police would come and get me’ if I ever was about to do something wrong. It’s such an interesting dynamic between the freedom of doing things, doing things in abidance with the law and how far do we assert this compliance with order. Of course, laws and rules are there to maintain order within society; but when it comes to these cases of the mentally ill how far do we assert this order to maintain ‘peace’ when you’re dealing with someone who is having difficulty to think with clarity?

Image 9: Street Art by the New Zealand Police Association
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An advertisement by the New Zealand Police Association to encourage people to join the force to help the mentally ill (NZPA 2012)

In stark comparison to the street art previously, this graffiti piece demonstrates the complete opposite where the officer is instead coming to level with the crouched person and holding their hand. There isn’t a weapon in sight, and not even at the holster as well. The art itself is an advertisement to encourage others to become a New Zealand police officer in way of helping those who are mentally ill. It’s such a refreshing and heart-warming image to see something similar to the image of the Eureka Police assisting the mentally ill homeless people. It’s also quite fascinating to see that the role of police demonstrated here is to ‘help others’ instead of their more publicised role of ‘asserting the law’. I feel that the line between these two roles are so ambiguous and elusive that it becomes the place where many debates concerning the law enforcement and mentally ill spark.

Image 10: Scanned Image by The National Association for Mental Health
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The table of contents page for the National Association for Mental Health’s manual of How to Recognize and Handle Abnormal People (The National Association for Mental Health 1960)

This scanned image of a table of contents page is taken from a manual titled ‘How to Recognize and Handle Abnormal People’ that was issued by the National Association for Mental Health in 1960. It lists its chapters that provide overviews on handling ‘abnormal people’ such as the mentally ill, alcoholics, sex offenders and even civil protesters. According to the article that this image was used for, Steven Heller writes that police departments didn’t have the “same behavioral standards as today. Policing meant wielding a billy club as an instrument of enforcement, though not always in the name of the law.” Thus in the 1940s, they started to “come under harsher civilian scrutiny and white papers… [advocated] more humane procedures”. What’s interesting in this image is that the handbook also has a chapter about the police officer themselves, and how to handle their ‘personal problems’. I feel that this is one factor gets swept under the rug nowadays with the amount of criticism on the law enforcement. However in saying that, I believe in understanding the police psyche will not discredit their fatal actions but instead attempt to provide both sides of the story. Another point of interest about this, is the fact that a national issued change wasn’t given until almost twenty years after the public began criticising on their malpractices, albeit it being a crash course handbook. If we apply that same timeline to the present, we probably won’t see a national issued change until 2030. With the amount of information now being shared and viewed through the internet, it’s almost impossible to not have your reputation be tarnished, which I feel that the police’s has already had with the number of fatal cases being publicised for the world to see every day.

Bayer, I. 2010, James Chasse action on 13th, Street Roots News, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://news.streetroots.org/2010/04/08/james-chasse-action-13th-james-everett>.

Buisman, H., Lin, J. & Mijares, J. 2016, Mental Health: Human Stakeholders Map, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

How to Recognize and Handle Abnormal People 1960, The National Association for Mental Health, PRINT Magazine, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://www.printmag.com/daily-heller/police-disturbances/>.

Kepka. M 2014, Doria Neff evaluating a woman for possible need of involuntary hospitalization, San Francisco Chronicle, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Killing-reveals-mental-health-care-fight-3781958.php#photo-3316221>.

Lin, J. & Mijares, J. 2016, Mental Health: Non-Human Stakeholders Map, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

Lin, J. & Mijares, J. 2016, Mental Health: Stakeholders Analysis Map, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

MIST in action 2015, Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, Lost Coast Outpost, viewed 11 August 2016, <https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2015/jan/16/mobile-team-help-mentally-ill-homeless/>.

Napoleon, H. 2016, Florida Police Shoot Unarmed Man Helping Mental Health Patient, Anonymous, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://www.anonews.co/police-shoot-man/>.

Sharik 2010, ukrainian banksy 14, The Hampton Institute, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://www.hamptoninstitution.org/coming-home-to-roost.html#.V7RwVJh94uW>.

She saw demons. He saw a way to help. 2012, New Zealand Police Association, viewed 11 August 2016, <https://www.policeassn.org.nz/newsroom/publications/featured-articles/close-madding-crowd>.

Steward, C. 2014, Are You Having A Public Mental Health Crisis? Did Some One Call the Police? #WhoCallsTheCopsOnStreetPerformers, PsychCentral, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://blogs.psychcentral.com/humor/2014/10/police-mental-health-crisis-2/>.

The Plain Dealer 2014, Jasmine Johnson speaks at a rally Dec. 11 2014 against police brutality and to mourn Tanisha Anderson’s death, Cleveland.com, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/04/cleveland_police_must_be_more.html>.

Tinsely, J. 2013, Spokane Police Department mental illness training, The Spokesman-Review, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/dec/12/spokane-police-course-focuses-on-mental-health/>.

Header Image:
Bayer, I. 2010, James Chasse action on 13th, Street Roots News, viewed 11 August 2016, <http://news.streetroots.org/2010/04/08/james-chasse-action-13th-james-everett>.

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