Thursday, October 11, 2007

Resistibility

I intended to write about the Andrew Sallenger case last week, but just didn’t have the time. You’ll recall that in 2002 (okay, you might not remember the exact year) police were called by Sallenger’s family after he had began acting bizarrely and frightfully. After a long struggle with the police, Sallenger, who was overweight, mentally ill and had a heart ailment, stopped breathing. He was revived but died 24 hours later at the hospital.

I’m not sure that I have much to say on it except that it is a sad story. I can understand why the grief-stricken family believes that their brother and son had his life unfairly taken. I’m just not sure what the police should have done differently.

Since I didn’t hear the entire amount of testimony and wasn’t privy to all of the evidence, I won’t make a judgment as to whether the police are responsible for his death. But I would like to pose some questions of a more general nature to you.

What should the police do when a person refuses to be put under arrest? Are tasers or nightsticks too much? Is there a point when the police should retreat, similar to when a high-speed chase is called off? Perhaps wait until the person falls asleep or is in a more congenial mood.

If a person is an imminent danger to himself or others, should the police use different methods for subduing him if he is mentally ill? What if the person is drunk or on drugs, should that affect the degree of force that is used?

Should the police even try to ascertain a person’s mental condition while he is still posing a danger?

Is there anyway the police can tell when someone is resisting, not because he wants to avoid arrest or because he wants to hurt someone, but because he is so frightened that he doesn’t know how else to react?

I’ll hang up and listen.



I would like to make one brief defense for the police that I would have probably ended up making in the comments section anyway.

If you or I, as civilians, encounter someone brandishing a gun, wielding a pitchfork or who is in any other way acting menacing, we have the option of fleeing for our safety and then calling the police. The police don’t have this option. They must confront the danger until the danger subsides. I think this fact sometimes gets lost when Monday morning quarterbacking the actions of the police. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t question what the police do or that they are never in the wrong, it’s just meant to provide a bit of perspective that we may lack having never walked in their shiny black shoes.

9 comments:

rock-robster said...

I'm glad I'm not a cop . . .

Anonymous said...

i'm glad you're not a cop, either.

Kent McCord said...

Dan,

Thanks, but I'm not biting on this one. This can only get ugly.

But I will say this; the way we think we know what it is like to play pro sports by watching it on TV is the same way the general public knows what it is like to be a police officer. Looks easy enough, yet until you have done it you really have no idea.

rock-robster said...

Kent,
WAIT! You mean my advanced training in 70s-80's era T.V. cop dramas was all for naught?? Well . . . Sharon Gless is going to get a piece of my mind!
-RR

kent said...

Rock,

Anyone who has ever seen Barnaby Jones chase and catch a perp on foot should have immediately recognized the Quinn Martin productions of the 70's as being pure fiction.

rock-robster said...

Kent,

You're right - Buddy E. would have been better off sending Nancy Kulp out after them bad guys! (I was more of a "Streets of San Francisco" guy anyway!)

J.R. Jones
(aka RR)

Anonymous said...

The one point that bothers me if the family. They are the ones who called in the police. Couldnt they have just "ignored' Andrew until he fell asleep and then called in for backup? There are many many what ifs here.

I will bite. The one thing that you always have to consider when you contact the police. Not just the Springfield Police either. People can and often do resent it and become violent. The family failed on this point.

They should have known Andrew and his behavior better than anyone. Certainly a copper has no training in dealing with a manic person. Certainly not to the degree that Andrew was

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