“What are you doing you freak?”
“He jumped the fence, that’s pretty funny. … I would have fought him, but I didn’t wanna…”
“There’s some nut, tweak just freaking out. If you see him, hit him with a baseball bat a few times…”
These were the words of police officers who shot a man 14 times in Sacramento in April 2016. Seven bullets fatally wounded Dazion Flenaugh. According to Flenaugh’s family, he had bipolar disorder.
During 2016 summer, another homeless man, Joseph Mann, who was described by 911 callers to dispatch as mentally ill, was shot 16 times and killed. Dispatch did not relay to responding officers the man might be mentally disturbed and the dash-cam audio and video demonstrated equally disturbing references and actions by officers.
In in both the cases, the officers were declared lawful by the District Attorney’s office, but the Sacramento city council has now voted to give all local police crisis intervention training.
De-escalation holds fate of police fatality victims
Quoting Flenaugh’s brother, the Sacramento Bee said, “Officers should have recognized that Dazion was having a mental crisis based on his actions that morning. That might have allowed them to de-escalate the situation from the start.”
According to local KCRA news, Mann’s family described Mann “as a college graduate who was smart, loved politics and economics, and succeeded in several careers before deteriorating into mental illness about five years ago.”
Based on the audio-enhanced police dash-cam video, the first set of police officers who responded to the 911 calls about Mann said, “He remained calm and attempted to de-escalate the unfolding situation.” However, two officers arriving thereafter tried to hit Mann with their vehicle “not once but twice. They sped onto the scene, interrupting the efforts of other officers who had been trying to de-escalate the situation.”
Thanks to the unanimous city council approval, now nearly 60 emergency dispatchers and 250 patrol officers will go through 40 hours of crisis intervention training this year. Police Captain Mark Greenlee said that within two years, the full department would be equipped with the protocol to address emergencies involving mentally ill people.
Crisis intervention training
Crisis training will be “money well spent,” said Sacramento Councilman Jeff Harris. The training will cost roughly $750,000. Harris added, the payoff, “goes both ways: It protects not only the community but the police, as well.”
In California last year, 31 people, identified as mentally ill, were killed by the police.
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) or Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) training, as it is dubbed in some counties, is a way to de-escalate situations using neutral, selective responses – and most importantly – employing non-threatening tactics to diffuse the situation.
Sovereign Health not only stands behind local municipalities taking measures to provide CIT or PERT training, it also stands behind families who know a loved one is mentally ill and can’t bear to lose that person to needless violence in response to psychotic episodes.
Mental disorders, if left untreated, can ruin relationships, lead to joblessness, subsequent homelessness oftentimes. Do not wait any longer to get your loved one the life-saving mental recovery they need. Contact our 24/7 helpline now.
About the author
Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a Sovereign Health writer and her intriguing storytelling has been featured with Sovereign Health, KPBS TV/FM, FOX5 News in San Diego and NPR. Her illustrative and relatable approach to digital and broadcast news bridges businesses and consumers, news and community. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.