Thursday, June 25, 2015

Disability and Policing - My Front Porch

The front screen door opened and then closed. I thought it was a package. But then I heard male voices on my porch. Was the delivery man saying hi to a neighbor? After a few minutes, when they continued, I opened the door to find a police officer on my porch, another on the sidewalk in front of the house, and my neighbor - a man maybe in his late 50s or early 60s (he's a Vietnam war vet) next to him.

In the rocking chair, just to the left of the door, sat my neighbor's mother, G. She said, sweetly, "I just came up to your porch to sit." Then she told me that these men wanted to take her away, that they were stupids. The police officer, very calmly, replied directly to her that he was there to help, that she had been wandering, but that because she said she was going to throw herself in front of a car, he had to take that seriously.

G asked me if she could come inside, but I demurred, offering instead to help walk her to where she needed to go. She asked me to walk her back to her house, and I carefully helped her down the stairs. As we got down the block a bit, an ambulance pulled up, and without real complaint (but much insulting commentary directed at the police), we walked towards the curb as the paramedics got out. Once she was well in their hands, she more or less dismissed me, and 10-15 more minutes elapsed as step-by-step they got her to the back of the ambulance, onto the gurney, and into the vehicle.

I chatted with the second officer about the unexpected arrival of my subject field - police interactions with people with disabilities - on my front porch. And I complimented their patience and thoughtfulness in handling it.

It's going to be a rough period for G and her son, but I'm pleased to see the police are ready to both take threats of self-harm seriously and to respond so patiently and calmly. Both G and the officers are welcome on my porch any time.

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