Monday, October 24, 2016

Wellness Checks and Renee Davis

Renee Davis, a single mother who was 5 months pregnant, texted a friend that she was feeling depressed.
Renee Davis was five months pregnant when she was fatally shot by King County sheriff’s deputies checking on her welfare Friday night, according to her foster sister, Danielle Bargala.
The 23-year-old Davis had struggled with depression, and she texted someone earlier that night to say she was in a bad way, according to Bargala. That person had alerted law-enforcement officers, leading the deputies to arrive at Davis’ house on Muckleshoot tribal lands shortly after 6:30 p.m.
Bargala, a Seattle University law student, said Saturday that she and other family members have a lot of questions about what happened next. The sheriff’s office declined to comment Saturday beyond what it said Friday night — that the deputies, investigating a report of someone suicidal, found a young woman with a handgun and two small children in the house.
I don't know what happened in that house. People are allowed to own firearms. Someone in a crisis when armed and armored officers showing up at the front door might well reach for their gun. I don't know what happened in that house.

I do know that sending armed officers to check the wellness of someone in a mental health crisis has always seemed to create the conditions for this kind of tragedy. People need someone else to call.

Instead of pouring money into specialized mental health training for cops, I support discrete crisis teams led by mental health professionals, making better tactical training the baseline for all cops (de-escalation is a nice shorthand, but smarter people than I say that's not really accurate), and building robust community-based crisis PREVENTION systems. Did Davis have anywhere to go? Anyone to talk to?

And of course we can't ignore the racial aspect to this. Police violence against Native Americans remains extremely high. I start all my talks and my book draft with the death of John Williams, a hard-of-hearing woodcarver who was shot in the back in Seattle.

Crisis prevention. Not crisis intervention. My current mantra for where the resources should go.

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