Ideas and solutions that I care about

The Chief of Police in Dallas has it right.  We are asking cops to do too much.  We ask teachers to do too much.  We ask government to do too much.  It’s time for us all to do more.  

This story in the Washington Post is worth your read.

Dallas police chief says ‘we’re asking cops to do too much in this country’

DALLAS — The police chief here said Monday that he felt as if law enforcement officers across the country are being asked to take on too much, comments that came as his department was still investigating the mass shooting of Dallas police officers last week and other cities continued to see heated protests against how officers use force.

Even as the Dallas police continued to sift through massive amounts of evidence from the shooting rampage that killed five officers — an effort that entails watching hundreds of hours of videos and conducting scores of interviews — David Brown, the Dallas police chief, said he believes officers in his city and nationwide were under too great a strain.

“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said at a briefing Monday. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem, let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

During his remarks Monday, Brown also offered a hint of the toll overseeing the response to such a shooting was taking on him. Brown, who has lived through traumas including his son’s death following the young man’s fatal shooting of an officer, said he was “running on fumes.” The chief also said that he and his family received “received death threats almost immediately after the shooting.”

“We’re all on edge,” Brown said of police in Dallas. “And we’re being very careful.”

[A police officer in Dallas gives his account of the ‘hellish’ massacre]

Dallas shooting survivor: ‘I’m going to love’ shooter Embed Share Play Video1:29
Dallas police officer Jorge Barrientos was injured during a violent ambush July 7, which left 5 law enforcement officials dead. Despite his ordeal, Barrientos said he refuses to hate shooter Micah Johnson. (AP)
The Dallas police were diving into the background of the gunman — 25-year-old Micah Johnson, an Army veteran — as they were also preparing for the first funerals for the officers slain in the attack last week. Police on Monday released information on the funerals for three of the officers, which will begin on Wednesday and Thursday.

Still, Brown said that the strain of the attack would not deter him from continuing to push for reforms to law enforcement and for community policing, efforts that have made his police department a model for change after a dark history.

“This tragedy, this incident, will not discourage us from continuing the pace of urgency in chasing and reforming policing in America,” Brown said.

Brown said that he and other officers were frustrated with what police officers are being forced to do while lawmakers do not seek possible solutions to the country’s violence.

While he called for laws and policies that could make people safer, Brown did not specify what he was seeking, other than to say that “something on guns” has to be done.

“Ask the policy makers to do something, then I’ll give you an opinion,” Brown said.

Calls for reform and arguments over race and policing continued continued to roil the nation in the wake of a bloody, horrific week, which in a matter of days saw the fatal shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota spur outrage and demonstrations — and then, during one such protest in Dallas on Thursday, the deaths of five police officers gunned down by a man who authorities said had been motivated by racial outrage.

Brown’s calls for reform and for police to shoulder less of a burden followed demonstrations late Sunday in cities including Memphis, Atlanta and Baton Rouge, La. The capital city in Louisiana has been the scene of intense showdowns between protesters and heavily-armed riot police during demonstrations over the death of Alton Sterling, a black man fatally shot by a white police officer last week.

Some cities remained calm — like Memphis, where the interim police director linked arms with demonstrators — but the appearance of masked riot police in Baton Rouge, followed by widespread arrests there, evoked the frenzied unrest in Ferguson, Mo., which became a national flash point two years ago.

These demonstrations, the deaths in Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minn., and the killings in Dallas have fueled a resurgent, bitter debate over policing and law enforcement. A chorus of calls for unity after the deaths of black men at the hands of police in Baton Rouge and outside St. Paul, Minn., were mixed with angry partisan finger-pointing.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani strongly criticized the “Black Lives Matter” movement, calling it “inherently racist” and again claiming that the “the real danger” to black children is “other black kids who are going to kill them.” (He has made similar comments before; statistics show that most killings are carried out by people of the same race as the victim.)

Charles H. Ramsey, who served as police chief in Philadelphia and Washington, also warned of another potentially dangerous moment in the near future, saying that it’s likely “some incident” will occur at the the coming political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia because of the “extreme rhetoric” raging nationwide.

“We are sitting on a powder keg,” Ramsey said during an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I mean, you can call it a powder keg, you could say that we’re handling nitroglycerin. But obviously, when you just look at what’s going on, we’re in a very, very critical point in the history of this country.”

[Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no.]

Brown said that in Dallas, investigators were still seeking clues about Johnson, who officials say had amassed ammunition, guns and bomb-making material. When they searched Johnson’s home, police found “a large stockpile” of explosive material, and what they found was enough to tell a bomb technician that Johnson “knew what he was doing,” Brown said Monday. “This wasn’t some novice.”

There was no evidence yet that Johnson learned about explosives from his time in the military, Brown said, adding that it was possible the gunman could have learned it online.

Investigators have questioned Johnson’s mother as they sought to piece together more of his background, behavior and plans, Brown said.

“We don’t know the scope of his plans yet,” he said.

Brown also said that the gunman appeared delusional and, at one point before he was killed by a bomb delivered by a police robot, scrawled the letters “RB” in blood. Investigators were still trying to determine what the letters meant.

Also on Sunday, El Centro College — the location that was the epicenter of the attack in Dallas, which unfolded during a protest over police shootings — said that two of the seven police officers who were injured and survived the attack were with the college’s police force.

One corporal was shot and injured by a bullet when Johnson shot out glass doors at the college’s entrance, the school said in a statement, but that corporal continued to work “with bullet fragments still lodged in his stomach.” The other officer was injured by glass shards sent flying by the gunman’s bullets, the school said.

In downtown, the crime scene that remained in a central chunk of snarled traffic on Monday and served as a reminder of a tragedy that still loomed over the city.

Darlene LaToure and her colleagues at a local law firm still couldn’t get into their offices Monday inside the Bank of America tower, which remained closed. Instead, they gathered around tables inside the Purple Onion restaurant a block away to do their best to carry on with business.

“It didn’t really hit until I came downtown today,” said LaToure, who typically parks in the garage where the shooting began.

It was hardly a routine day for Melvin Davis, who operates a street sweeper in downtown Dallas. Traffic was snarled. Roads were closed.

“I’ll be more than grateful for just a normal day,” said Davis, 52. The Friday morning after the shooting, he came to work to find a mostly deserted downtown that had turned into a sprawling crime scene.

“There was an eerie feeling in the air, given what had happened,” he said. “We couldn’t clear the streets because everything on lockdown.”

[Huckabee’s claim that more white people were shot by police in 2015 than minorities]

Instead, they cleaned a police memorial and a park downtown where a vigil would take place for the victims.

“The mood around here is still kind of somber. It’s still sad,” said Jeff DiCicco, who was setting up tables and chairs outside a nail salon and spa near the shooting site. “Everything is starting to come back to normal. But I don’t think it’ll ever be the same.

“It’s a weird feeling,” he added. “I’m leery. Everybody is leery.”

Christian Washington was ready to head back to his summer internship at Dallas City Hall on Monday. He had been part of the march on Thursday night, and held up his hand to show the still-healing injuries he’d gotten while fleeing from the gunfire.

“It’s not going to be the same here,” said Washington, 17. But at least returning to the office offered a way to think about something different. “To me, work is like a safe place.”

Berman reported from Washington. Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.


Above all else I love ideas!  Big ones, small ones, creative and interesting ones.  I have to be honest, though, they have to be ideas that I can actually understand and convey to others.  The world is full of really smart and talented people who, when they talk, can make my head want to spin off my neck.  I have a C-minus intellect so I have to keep the things I can talk about and understand in bite sized pieces.

5/3/2015:  Right to Try Legislation and Mental Health Crisis Centers

Two pieces of legislation during the Minnesota legislative session have caught my eye.  Both of them related to health care, both of them related to the quality of one’s life and both of them extraordinarily important in the lives of Minnesotans.

One piece of legislation, called “Right to Try”, has passed both the House and the Senate by overwhelming margins and is on its way to Governor Dayton who says he plans to sign the legislation.

Below is a link to a story in the Star Tribune about its lead author, Representative Nick Zerwas, that shares his own personal journey on this issue and why it was literally something that saved his life.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, “Under the legislation known as the “Right to Try Act,” eligible patients could more easily use experimental drugs and procedures. They could use a drug, product or device that has not been approved for general use by the federal Food and Drug Administration if it is currently under investigation in a FDA clinical trial.”

At its core, the law is intended to cut through the red tape and bureaucracy that hinders these types of last chance or long shots at survival for patients.  Many of these patients have tried repeated efforts to prolong, cure and save their life.

As the Star Tribune article explains, “Once it becomes law, patients who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses would have easier access to drugs, procedures or medical devices that are still undergoing clinical trials. The government currently allows dying patients to take experimental drugs under what’s called “expanded access,” or “compassionate use,” but Right to Try advocates say the bureaucratic red tape and the waiting period of months and sometimes years often is longer than the patient’s life expectancy.”

This kind of common sense legislation seems unnecessary given the reality of the life outcome for many of the patients who are desperate for a last chance — a “Right to Try” — at survival.  But, knowing how slowly the wheels of government can work, regardless of the laws that make it clear what citizens are allowed to do to make every effort to live, I think this legislation is smart and timely.  Kudos to Representative Zerwas for his leadership and to all Minnesota legislators and the Governor who support this effort.

The other legislation has to do with saving Minnesotans with mental illness from being further injured in the course of arrest by law enforcement.

Unfortunately, this legislation was defeated in the Minnesota State Senate after mental health advocacy groups rejected efforts by its lead author, Senator Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, and the law enforcement agencies who supported the law, tried to gain its passage.

Under Goodwin’s legislation, Minnesota would spend around $6 million to create three 16-bed “jail diversion hubs” throughout the state.

These hubs would allow law enforcement to place mentally ill suspects in a psychiatric bed instead of being locked up in jail where it is unlikely they will get the care they need.

As the Star Tribune explained, “The facilities would offer short-term stays for diagnosis and immediate treatment for mental health issues. They would serve as a drop-off point for police, who must otherwise lock them up, spend hours in emergency rooms or drive hundreds of miles to find a treatment facility.”

Organized opposition from organizations that are advocates for the mentally ill claimed that Goodwin’s bill would divert money from programs that are already working — and that any kind of additional funds for crisis intervention for the mentally ill caught up in a criminal situation should be directed into those programs — and not the proposed solution that Goodwin is proposing.

Unfortunately, this is a case of where advocacy groups are more concerned about turf than they are about being creative.  According to Goodwin not a single dollar of existing funds dedicated for mental health crisis intervention would be impacted by her legislation.

When law enforcement are relating stories of who those arrested with mental illness are being put into jail instead of treatment facilities, further exacerbating a violent and potentially life threatening situation for both the suspect and law enforcement personnel, we should listen to them.

The Goodwin measure focuses on an identified problem and challenge and identifies the fact there is a shortage of immediate facilities where those with mental illness can be properly treated, and at the same time, be evaluated in the context of their legal dilemma.

While I don’t agree with some of Senator Goodwin’s accusations about mental health advocates not caring for those who are mentally ill and finding themselves arrested with nowhere to go but jail, I do agree with her that there is lack of creative risk involved with their opposition.

I suspect that some of Senator Goodwin’s rhetoric is rooted in frustration at the opposition she has faced.  I have had the opportunity to work with some of the advocates she is upset with in my previous life in the Minnesota Senate and always found them to be committed and focused on the needs of the mentally ill in Minnesota.

Be that as it may be, I think Senator Goodwin and those advocates should and can find a common ground.

In an era of limited resources it is easier to stick with what you know — or think you know — rather than what might have a legitimate chance of success.

It is my hope that Senator Goodwin continues to push this issue because it is important and necessary and a tremendously valuable tool for both law enforcement and the mentally ill.

Both her legislation and that of Representative Zerwas are examples of smart, creative approaches to addressing real life situations and challenges for Minnesotans.  Both are to be commended for their leadership and the valuable impact it will make on the quality of life of thousands of our fellow citizens.


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