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Friday Update on June 19 2020

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Friday Update on June 19 2020


Just a few items this week:

Finally, a little on police and law enforcement which has been in the news lately.

The one thing I know about life is that being a police officer is one of the most difficult jobs anywhere. The complexity of the laws and dealing with split second decisions on the nuances of situations make it one of the toughest challenges for anyone. Over my almost 36 years in local government I have always worked and collaborated with our law enforcement personnel and I have learned more about society and personalities than in any other area. Today’s society is filled with many complexities because of the evolution of our criminal justice system and how it deals with people.

A short discussion on dealing with the mentally ill and domestic situation which lead to headlines.

In the mid 1970’s, the State of California “defunded” and eliminated all of what were formerly called “mental hospitals” which housed the disturbed, addicted and outright mentally ill. Much of this was done under the guise that the State would fund “other programs” to help these folks. Eventually the funding ran out and the promised programs simply did not happen.

In the 1980’s, crime began to escalate with the addicted and mentally ill folks becoming aggressive on the criminal front. That let to a “get tough” on sentiment on criminals and these people began the wave on incarcerated individuals. “Three strikes” was created and eventually, the prison populations exploded and there was a building boom on incarceration facilities. Literally, the prisons became the location to house the addicted an mentally ill. In some cases, the three strikes penalties placed them in prison for decades.

Fast forward to the 2000’s and we have multiple measures for “judicial” reform. The objectives are to get the non-violent offenders (drug offenders, mentally ill) into “treatment” versus incarceration so we essentially have thousands being released from incarceration which has been providing treatment, health care and protection. In many cases these folks end up on the streets in the homeless populations or into families or locations which are incapable of adequately caring for them. When situations arise from mental or addiction relapses the first thing that happens is people dial 911. Combined with recent legislation like AB109 and Propositions 47 and 57 which essentially decriminalized everything (including drug use and possession), we now find police in a simply ridiculous situation. In the news this week it is being reported that District Attorney’s are now waiving prosecution on all “misdemeanors” (essentially meaning that there are no paths for ramifications for most actions).

The most dangerous call a police officer can receive is a “domestic” call. This covers the spectrum of family members assaulting each other, relatives stealing or causing a commotion. The reality is that these situations are extremely volatile because emotions can swing in multiple directions, especially against law enforcement when they may decide to arrest an individual. Even the most accosted spouse will physically intervene with law enforcement when the family member is about to be arrested or gets physical against the officers. Many of these decisions are split second and allow practically zero time for assessment of background on a mentally ill person. What is common in most domestic cases- drugs, alcohol and mental illness!

The jobs of police have swayed between enforcing laws to become social workers to marriage and family counsellors. I can assure you that the typical police vehicle has more pamphlets and business cards for social service agencies than handcuffs or bullets. There is not a single police agency which will not agree that there is more which needs to be done with mental health and services for the domestically afflicted. The discussion in Yolo County on rapid response teams for mentally ill is a regular topic for our top law enforcement. Maybe a first step in the many discussions being held today is to focus on dealing with those with mental illness which seems to be at the root of so much of what we deal with.


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