Thursday, December 08, 2005

US Marshall made the right call...

While a tragic death, the US Marshall was left with little choice based on the behavior of Rigoberto Alpizar. The all reports say man was acting agitated and shouted for many to hear that he had a bomb in his bag. Now of course we know he didn't have a bomb and that his agitated behavior is because of his bipolar condition and that he was off his meds. But none of this was apparent at the time and Marshall had to act based on the current situation: an agitated man, claiming to have a bomb, making an apparently aggressive move into his case. The Marshall had no time to decide what other possibilities there might be for why the man was acting this way.

Yesterday I read other bloggers takes on the shooting like Froggy Ruminations...

I don't know how this FAM can be faulted for acting to protect airline passengers under those circumstances, but I'm certain that somebody will do so. It really is disappointing to realize that under the threat the US has been under since 9/11 (and obviously before), Americans cannot agree that shooting dead a man claiming to be prepared to detonate a suicide bomb aboard an aircraft is not a victory in the GWOT. A small victory to be sure, but a victory nonetheless.

... and had to agree it does show that the system is working to protect US citizens from possible attacks, but I immediately felt sorry for thMarshallll because regardless of the new info released, I was sure he would be raked over the coals for this by the media, by politicians looking to sling a little mud at the administration, and surely by his own guilt and remorse at having taken the life of what turned out to be an innocent, though unstable, man.

I'm sure that thMarshallll knows (but I'll say it anyway) he's not the first peace officer to kill a mentally disturbed person in an effort to protect others. These stats came over the wire today:

-- Newspapers across the nation reported at least 50 deaths of people with severe mental illnesses in encounters with law enforcement in 2004.

-- In 1976, the New York City Police Department took approximately 1,000 "emotionally disturbed persons" to hospitals for psychiatric evaluation. By 1998, this number had increased to 24,787.

-- Florida law officers alone initiate nearly 100 Baker Act psychiatric examination cases each day - 40 percent more than burglary arrests.

In responding to the news of Rigoberto Alpizar's death, the chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee said: "The system worked exactly as designed."

[...]Air marshals have a job to do, as do police officers and sheriff's deputies. For the latter, much time is now spent intervening with homeless people who are delusional, transporting people with severe mental illnesses who need emergency evaluations to the hospital, and managing domestic disturbances, incidents of violence, and threats of suicide.

It is time to literally stop the madness.

People with severe mental illnesses who are taking medication are no more likely to be dangerous than the general population. But when they are not taking medication, that is no longer true. That means that these encounters are dangerous not only for the people who are ill, but also for officers -- compared with the rest of the population, people with mental illnesses, usually off their medication, killed law enforcement officers at a rate 5.5 times greater.

While I do feel sorry for the victim and his family, my heart really goes out to the Marshall. My uncle is a prominent law enforcement official in the SoCal area and I've heard him mention on more than onoccasionon the importance of psychologicacounselingng, in this case not for the mentally ill, but for the officers, so that they can cope with the stress and pressure of the job and with the ramifications of death, whether they took that life or were just a witness to it.