I’m still trying to make up my mind about the past two days; we’ve been studying crisis intervention, and the instructor is a Lieutenant from a reasonably large local department. His expertise is in mental health issues and hostage/crisis negotiating, and he began by telling us something about himself and his family.
Pat is in his mid thirties, but he looks as if he’s in his late forties. He is kind of laid back but there’s a kind of pain there underneath it that is palpable. He said that soon after getting on the job he began having interest in mental health issues, and Became certified to deal with those people very shortly after getting out of the academy.
“Going on a call with a crazy person,” says Pat, “is going to be one of the funniest things you’ve done. Hollywood has nothing on reality. In many ways,” he continues, “it’s funny, but in many ways you’re awestruck. I’m passionate about mental health calls – it’s mentally challenging, it’s physically challenging and it makes me feel that I am really doing an important job.”
That sounds pretty good so far. Then he mentions his son, “who was such a behavioral problem I was beating him nightly – not just beating him,” he says, “but beating him with a belt. Then I found out that he has ADHD. So I learned.”
Wait a second. This man…this police officer…This trained mental health expert is beating his child with a belt?!
This is going to be a long two days.
It starts to get worse almost immediately. He’s fond of saying things like, “Be courteous, be polite and have a plan to kill everyone you meet,” and he uses fairly politically incorrect terms for the mentally challenged. He calls them “crazy people,” of course, but he also uses terms of art, such as, “He was throwed-off.”
Sometimes, of course, this is funny.
“So we have a residential treatment facility and on the same floor, sharing a common wall we have two individuals…two consumers of mental health services,” he says. “Mark, in unit one, believes more than anything he is a CIA operative. If you do a traffic stop in the area, Mark’ll run out and tell you “I got your back, man… I’m a trained CIA operative.’ Crazy as a shithouse rat.
“Lee, in unit two, is crazy; he believes, more than anything, that the CIA is after him.
“And at the end of the fight – and of course there was a fight of epic proportions, with walls coming down and furniture going out the windows – you look at mental health services guys and you say, “And you didn’t see this coming?”
And Pat makes keen observations: “No one,” he says, “ever has a delusion that he is insignificant.”
This is good stuff.
But Pat has some problems. He makes up statistics and presents them as fact. “There are 20 million Americans – one out of five – with diagnosable mental health issues today,” he declares. I Google this in class. Turns out the number is 26.2 million – this is far more than one in five; it’s nearly one-in-three-and-a-half.
“Dentists,” he imparts, “have the highest suicide rate of any profession. Cops are second.” The first is a statistic from an episode of Seinfeld; the second is – according to the peer-reviewed academic research I checked – balderdash.
It goes on. It is death by Power Point in its truest sense: he has hundreds of slides, and he puts the slide up, reads the slide and moves to the next slide. Statistics are presented without citation. Opinions and facts are intermingled.
That’s when the man from the state examination board made his entrance. Dave and the Academy Director usher in this man, wearing tight jeans, a buttoned-up denim shirt covering what appears to be a beach-ball tucked above his waist. His pockmarked face is covered with a scraggly beard.
‘Hi,” he says, “I’m from the state examination board and I thought I would congratulate you on the career you’re embarking upon and see if I could answer any questions you might have.” The twenty three of us gazed upon him, our shining eyes the gateways to the fertile minds we’ve entrusted to this state-run program, eager to learn.
“Good morning, sir,” we all say, with a shiver of excitement: upon our lucky minds, what wisdom will this man bestow?
“Now, when you get arrested,” he begins, “you have to notify us in writing within…..” He looks at us, expectantly.
“Thirty days,” we all mumble in unison.
“That’s correct, thirty days. From any arrest, any indictment, any conviction.”
Where is he going with this? Last year, about 700 officers of the state’s more than 75,000 sworn officers were arrested – that’s less than 0.01% 1% (Thanks, Chris; maths is not my strong suit). When we get arrested?
“Now, also, if you get fired, you have to notify us in….”
“Thirty days,” says us.
“Correct. And the next agency you go to will know that it happened, and why, so you have to be very honest with them. When you’re fired, the agency firing you has to fill in a form DL7, and submit it to us, so we will know about it. And the new agency that hires you sees that – it’s a matter of open records.
“Now,” he continues, “when you call us, and ask us things like, “What are my continuing professional education requirements, which you all know is….”
“Forty hours every two years,” says the least enthusiastic group of adults I’ve ever heard. We sound as if we’ve been forced to spend Christmas day at a sales meeting as punishment for blowing the quarter, and we’re replying to the consultant they brought in to motivate us.
“Right,” says the Man From The State. “So you know that. And you know that each of you has his training record – all the classes you take – online on our website. So don’t call us and ask us how many hours you have left in your biennial training cycle, look it up online.”
At this point, the Academy Director interjects.
“We’ve been, as you all know, focusing on the ethical issues we will all face as officers,” he begins.
I still think it’ just fuckin’ charming as all get out that the academy considers this such an important thing to harp on (see this post for more on police corruption) – the level of even accusations of corruption in our state – not convictions, mind you, but mere allegations – is among the lowest in the country – well below average – and the group I am a part of comprises the most honest and earnest bunch I’ve ever set eyes on.
“This,” continues the Academy Director, “Is a rare opportunity to ask a representative from the state licensing board any of the questions that might be on your mind.”
Shockingly, despite that warm and welcoming lead in, none of us had any questions. After all, this man had come in and told us that we’re to be arrested and fired and that we shouldn’t call him.
The Man From The State said, “Well, all right. If there’s no questions, I’ll let you get back to your studies.” And then, I swear he said, “Remember, if there’s anything you want to ask me, just give me a call.
“We’re here to help.”
Don’t wait by the phone, Ace.
Oh, I almost forgot. We get OC sprayed tomorrow. We’re in Boots and Utes in the morning, we break for lunch around 11 am and back at 12:30, when the spraying … forgive me…the exposure begins. I’ll be making video. It will be up tomorrow night.