Last night, in one of our neighborhoods in the south end of the city we received a call of a subject barricaded in a home with a machete threatening suicide. He also threatened any officer who tried to come into his room. He is a young adult with a history of mental health issues who was drunk and suffering from a recent break up with a girlfriend. We responded to the home and after an hour or so on the phone with him talked him into coming out and going to the hospital for treatment. No one was injured – no crime was committed. Sergeant Bryan Eftink and his afternoon shift did a great job of managing a challenging situation and getting a positive outcome.
Today, I was reporting on crime statistics for our city’s state required dashboard. The dashboard is a requirement in the last few years as part of an open government movement. While I agree that open and transparent government is a good thing. I can’t agree that measuring public safety only by crime statistics makes sense. Last night’s incident is a case in point -there won’t be any crime statistic on that case last night. No crime was committed – he was a person requiring treatment. And this type of case is on the rise although crime is not. Our crime statistics are pretty stable and have been over a long period of time. But we are seeing increases in mental health type calls. Last year we responded to 122 calls of this type. This year to date we have 103 calls. I didn’t count the drug overdose cases that police have responded to: 5 and the suicides: 3. They do include the attempts at suicide: 25.
No one is looking at or counting this kind of police activity yet it is a major factor in what we do. On the scene last night, there was a sergeant and at least 6 officers and given the gravity of the situation we responded a lieutenant and more 2 more officers. You never know how these situations are going to turn out. Many of the controversial police situations that end up as officer involved shootings begin as exactly this kind of event. Officers rush into the situation in an attempt to resolve it quickly and there is a violent confrontation. So we slow the situation down and attempt to talk the person into coming out. We train for just these kinds of situations and we rely on our high quality supervisors to achieve the best outcome with the least possible force use.
We think that is what you want us to do.