The attack and subsequent death of 37 year old Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man, by several Fullerton Police Officers has been in the national news since early July. A flood of questions linger about what triggered the beatings which has recently resulted in a murder charge against Manuel Ramos, the primary officer involved in this case. Thomas Watkins of the Associated Press writes:
Prosecutors say Ramos started the beating then five other officers who had not seen the start of the confrontation joined in. In the 10-minute incident, Thomas was shocked four times with a Taser, kneed in the head, punched in the ribs and bashed eight times around the face with the butt of a stun gun as he cried out for his father and begged for help as Ramos laid on top of him….
Shock reaches communities across our country when we hear about law enforcement injuring those deemed incapable of fully rationalizing their actions, such as in the case with Thomas who was diagnosed with a mental illness. Other than the unknown of whether the actions of the officers were warranted or excessive, the other variable is Thomas’s mental illness, and most mentally ill individuals do not behave nor respond the way others do in many situations.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Department recently deployed a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team Training. It is “five times the mental health education officers receive in the academy” and “ is giving local law enforcement more understanding of the mentally ill, ” Kellie Schmitt writes in her article Officers’ Mental Health Training Saving Lives, Costs. Schmitt’s work further reads, “The effort is especially relevant as departments throughout California grapple with officer shootings involving the mentally ill. Up to 10 percent of the Kern County Sheriff’s Department’s calls involve someone who is mentally ill…”.
In this article, Schmitt goes on to interview Sheriff’s Deputy Marcus Moncur,
“In basic academy, we’re taught that people with mental illness are just as dangerous as a gangster carrying a gun,” Moncur said. “Taking the class put it in perspective for me that people who suffer from mental illness are just like you and me.”
Understanding mental illness may be a relevant piece to the Thomas case because according to Watkin’s article, prosecutors say Ramos already knew Kelly from routine stop-and-searches in times past.
At Privacy for Cops, we understand that tragedies like this can happen at any moment to anyone in law enforcement. And the resulting safety concerns presented to families of law enforcement officers is another reason to strongly consider protecting your online privacy. There are many families hurting as a result of this incident and no matter what the outcome, hopefully the necessary changes will occur to improve the wellbeing of both officers and the mentally ill.