Monday, August 27, 2012

Answers IV

Posted by: Blue

Courtesy of Jordan:

11. Are police in your area required (or encouraged) to take any mental health training, such as suicide intervention training or courses on mental illnesses? 
12. Has your opinion on human nature changed since becoming a police officer? If so, in what way?

11. Yes.  We are required to take both mental health training and suicide intervention training as well as courses on mental illnesses and the frequent addictions that come with them.  

Of course, compared to the realities that we deal with, the simple part-day courses are borderline useless, not to mention taught by "experts" who frequently have no real-life experience talking a person off a ledge (literally or figuratively) or dealing with the aftermath of a complete suicide.  
Most officers become experts in their own right at dealing with people who are both legitimately suicidal (a very low percentage of suicide threat calls), and those who are attention-seeking, manipulative, and spiteful.  One of the most common reasons for a suicide threat call to be entered in my opinion is that people have limited or no coping skills and are angry at themselves or those around them and wish to lash-out, knowing that hurting themselves or threatening to is a very quick way of hurting others.  The difficult thing for officers is to try to help people in these situations and in legitimately life-threatening situations.  The health care system does not care, nor do their family or friends often, if they even have any.  Often times mental health issues combined with increased vulnerabilities to addictions provide for a combination which effectively isolates the person from anyone who would wish to help them.  They are constantly pushed through a revolving-door health care system which provides no long-term or follow-up care.  Without the ability to forcibly treat persons who do not wish to be treated for their illnesses, the cycle continues.  
Police, doctors and judges all have the ability to determine legally that a person is a danger to themselves or to others and cause them to undergo mandatory psychological evaluation, however it is only the police who take that person into custody forcibly if necessary, including under the orders of a doctor or judge.
It is rare to show-up to a suicide threat call and have someone who is genuinely suicidal.  Just like someone who is truly homicidal, there are few things that will convince a person who is determined to commit suicide not to.  People threaten to kill others all the time out of anger or in the heat of emotion.  The same is true with suicide threats.  Genuinely suicidal people are the ones that are often unreported.  These calls are usually Sudden Deaths - Suicide.  One who is determined, succeeds.  Instead, the calls frequently walk a fine line between medical issues (poor medication or lack of medication or misdiagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues) and police issues (active cutting, attempted hanging, overdose, standing on a bridge etc.)  In my opinion, there is no classroom training that prepares you properly to determine the difference.
We respond to suicide threats at the very least once a week per crew, often once every two or three days.  Dozens of calls are entered city-wide daily.

12. My opinion on human nature has not changed.  I have always believed that people are selfish, perverse, liars, violent, and hurtful to others.  I just have more opportunity in this job to see these things embodied.  That is not to say I don't also believe that there is the ability for people to choose good, only that it goes against the grain of human nature to do so, and that there are varying degrees of the vices I mentioned.  It is clear to me, however that there is no difference to one side of the law than the other other than that those on this side of it seem to try a little harder to stifle their bad instinct.  It still comes seeping out though in the mistakes we make when we lose our tempers or in the selfishness we show when we do things like judge a situation based on our own emotions towards it (whether consciously or subconsciously).  Those on one side of the law - in general - wish to choose right over wrong and they sometimes don't.  Those on the other side do not necessarily wish to choose wrong over right, but they often do.

P.S.  These are loaded questions with loaded answers (though I took further liberties with the scope of the first question than the second) and I do not intend to begin a debate by posting either.  I am welcome to civil responses and disputes, however understand that I am posting my opinions based on my experiences and beliefs.


  1. Thank you very much for answering my questions! But loaded? Hardly; it’s not like I asked you to weigh in on women and minorities in the force, journalism coverage of city police, or the relationship between the top brass and city hall.

    I was careful to word the first question so that (if you so chose) it could have been answered purely factually in a sentence or two. You did indeed take substantial liberties in answering it, which was generous of you (thanks again), though that was your choice, and not something demanded by (or even implicit in) the question itself.

    The second question suggested an opinion answer of course, but it wasn’t loaded either, just a little complex. Besides, the truly interesting questions are the ones that are complex, because they reflect the world you encounter on your shifts every day. I know you take your job seriously, and that you are a thoughtful person, so I asked my questions deliberately, though not with any hidden agenda.

    No offense to you or the other commenter, but an open Q and A with a police officer was too good of an opportunity for me to let slide by with only some in-house trivia about what brand of firearm you carry, cruiser you drive, etc. (though I did very much like the question and answer about balance – very important in your line of work). Those things may be interesting to a limited extent, but they hardly demonstrate the rich interior world of a police officer as intelligent as yourself.

    As an aside, I imagine quieter shifts in the cruiser (rare though they may be) are a great opportunity for reflection.

  2. Cheers.

    To clarify, both the questions and answers were loaded only due to the liberties I took with them. They were good, straight-forward questions. In other words: I was the one who caused the questions to be loaded by answering them that way. I don't believe they were ever intended to be.

    I knew that my answers would be potentially inflammatory so I entered a disclaimer.

    Gotta CYA ;)

    As for quiet shifts, they are extremely rare. I am lucky enough to have a partner who thinks very similarly to myself and it proves for frequent reflection on the nature of man and God.

    I'll be sure to post it in point form once we figure it all out...


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