We have a bit of a problem in our community. Ne'er-do-wells and other miscreants are misbehaving. Some adults are marketing illicit drugs. Little children as young as three and four run up and down the middle of the street (and are sure to cause me to go into cardiac arrest as I fear for their safety). In general, the kids here are rude, they have no respect for rules and regulations, and their parents often fail to provide any supervision of their children's activities.
I went to a Neighborhood Watch meeting at City Hall last night, organized for the law-abiding citizens of our little enclave. A new police lieutenant is on the job, eager to help improve the overall situation.
He did two PowerPoint presentations about the ever-increasing heroin problem in our county. Last year, 16 county residents died from heroin overdoses; this year's total is already 29.
It seems that meth labs are going out of style - now you can cook your meth in a soda bottle (as some Wal-Mart shoppers in our county have done).
The lieutenant's uniform was crisply ironed, and sweat from his bald head glistened, prompting him to periodically wipe the moisture from his forehead with a folded white handkerchief. He talked of budgetary constraints and how the the police force have had to cut four positions lately. He talked of attitude problems within the department, and his plans to improve things - beyond encouraging those officers to either improve their attitude, or suggesting that they find another place of employment.
The detective who maced The Boy is gone. I may have done a little stationary chair dance on that news.
And I shouted out a "Thank you!" when he said that all officers would be required to take CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) - which will hopefully prevent other mentally ill or developmentally disabled youth and adults from getting the treatment The Boy received in 2011.
After the meeting, I got to talk to him, and I mentioned my unsatisfactory conversation I had with the police chief. "I don't ask the Chief for permission for many things", he said, smiling. He talked to me (in glowing terms) about how CIT training changed (and improved) his interaction with citizens who need extra time and effort to help them de-escalate and regain control of their emotions.
For the past two years, I have held a very negative opinion of our local constabulary. Last night, hope filtered in to brighten up those dark corners of my mind.
I hope that I see some of our men in blue the next time I speak as part of the Family Forum during CIT training. I'd like to bring home the point that there may be a less confrontational approach when dealing with a citizen in the midst of a mental health crisis. Let's hope that this means less instances of tackling someone to the ground, macing them and throwing them into the back of a patrol car and hauling them off to detention (instead of transporting them to the hospital for treatment of their mental health issues).
He said we'd be seeing more police presence (despite a smaller staff), and not to be surprised if we see him taking a walk in our neighborhood, bald head, civilian clothes and all.