This week it was announced that Danish police will have a doctor or a nurse with them when they are going to collect people with mental disturbances and it is about time that they found money for this again. The risk that the police end up shooting the person they were going to take for evaluation or treatment is too big.
There have been a number of cases in Denmark which ended in tragedy. Most known in the Danish public was a case where a mental patient in a 7-11 store was riddled with bullets while he was lying down waiting to be cuffed. Thoughts of calling for even more backup in this case was considered but was decided against due to the structural damage of the building as result of the initial shooting. A cached link back then explain.
Shot by the Police
A thorough investigation into the lethal shots fired by Danish police.
In 2006, Hans Jørgen Tønnesen, a mentally ill man, was shot and killed by the Danish police in a 7-Eleven store in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen. The official statement was that Tønnesen went berserk with a knife, thus forcing the policemen to shoot in self-defense.
However – a further investigation into the statements of the two policemen revealed that they weren’t coherent. Furthermore, a reconstruction of the events in 7-Eleven indicated that the officers might not have been as threatened, as they themselves claimed to have been.
I was responsible for a 20-minute piece on the episode in the TV2 program ‘Dags Dato’. A piece that contributed to the case being reopened by the Danish court system.
In this very publicized Danish case is was an adult but what if the person the police should collect was a child? Would the loss of the child be something the parents left behind could live with?
For an answer to this question we have to look across the ocean. November 2012 the police in Stafford County found a car left by the driver. A quick search revealed that the car belonged to a single mother living nearby. Of course the police knew that it most likely wasn’t the mother who might have driven the car when they looked at their computer. There was a 17 year old son with a history of low attendance at the school. So the police called for backup from a neighboring county and basically raided the home. The aggressive approach led the boy to run into the kitchen which as in most homes contains knives. Now the boy could be considered to be armed. From that point there was nothing the mother or the boy could have done to prevent the tragic event which took place. The boy ended up dead.
For the society just a number in a long line of juveniles with smaller mental issues who are shot by the police; for the mother it was a tragedy. In the same period many families experienced the same. Just as little as a dispute over loud music would end up in a kill.
For this mother it also meant the end of her life. Grief took a toll on her life and it ended January 19, 2016 on the very day her boy would have turned 21 if he hadn’t given the police the excuse to exercise the use of their weapons.
The petition for a proper investigation into the death of her son can still be seen on the Internet. However if the police should decide for a new investigation it would not help the now deceased mother.
It is very simple. When you deal with people suffering from illness you cannot expect them to react normal or rationally. You need to bring people with the right kind of education to secure that the situation is handled in a way where loss of lives become minimized.
That’s why I was happy that Denmark now add medical staff to routine calls when people are being picked up for mental evaluation.