by Marcus Harrison Green
Content Warning: This op-ed discusses suicide.
The following is an edited transcript of a speech given at the 2022 Reimagining Behavioral Health Conference: Race, Equity, and Social Justice. Prompting the speech was the question, “What does justice look like when navigating mental health?”
Good morning. Thank you for joining me virtually today, or should you be listening to this recording, whatever day you found convenient to play back this speech.
I want to confess that a recent incident made me slightly shift the focus of my speech today. It seemed to provide a stark metaphor for where I think we currently find ourselves at this moment in our history.
You see, a few weeks ago, while walking from my office in Pioneer Square, I passed by what I thought was an empty wheelchair, stained with human feces, and a bundle of blankets in a heap next to it.
Continue reading OPINION | The Banality of Injustice
by Dr. Howard Gale
The Seattle Community Police Commission (CPC) began meeting more than nine years ago in March of 2013. This commission was created following the tragic murder of John T. Williams by the SPD in 2010. As we will see below, the number of SPD killings has actually increased by 38% during the nine years after the CPC started meeting when compared to the nine years prior. The situation is even direr when it comes to the SPD killing of people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. This increase suggests that the CPC’s work has done nothing to curtail the worst consequence of police violence and abuse.
Continue reading OPINION: A Simple Change Could Save Lives. Our Police Reform System Ignores It.
by Douglas Wagoner and Nia Franco
The Seattle Police Department has a history of violent responses to people in mental health crises that result in minimal to no discipline for the offending officer. Often, following these shooting deaths, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) will recommend changes to policies and training. While these changes are necessary, they are meaningless if officers are not held accountable for violating policies and their training.
Continue reading OPINION: Mental Health Crisis Should Not Be a Death Sentence
by Elaine Simons
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.—Elie Wiesel
My foster son, Jesse Sarey, was killed by Officer Jeff Nelson of the Auburn Police Department on May 31, 2019. Jesse was 26 years old. He was the 19th person in 2019 killed by police use of deadly force in the state of Washington since implementation of Initiative 940 (I-940), which requires de-escalation and mental health training for police and changed the law to remove a legal barrier that prevented prosecutors, as a practical matter, from charging officers who killed someone. Washington’s previous statute required prosecutors to prove “actual malice” — the most restrictive standard in the country. With Jesse’s biological family and supporters by our side, Officer Nelson was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in August 2020. Officer Nelson is only the third officer to be indicted for taking the life of a civilian in Washington State history and the first under I-940. Nelson is the first officer in the state of Washington to be prosecuted for taking the life of a civilian in 30 years. Less than 2% of police officers nationally are held criminally accountable when they kill someone. This is why State v. Nelson needs your attention, and the nation’s. Officer Nelson’s trial begins in June 2022.
Continue reading OPINION: The Silence Is Maddening
by Alexa Peters
Content Warning: This article contains brief mention of suicide.
On the evening of Aug. 1, Eiob Teklie, a mental health technician at Cascade Behavioral Health (Cascade) in Tukwila watched as an unstable male patient stole an employee badge and ran with free rein throughout the multi-wing psychiatric facility, verbally and physically assaulting employees and tormenting patients suffering from acute mental illness.
Continue reading Cascade Behavioral Health Staff Strike Against Unsafe Working Conditions Continues
by Andrew Engelson
In an online news conference Friday morning, Governor Jay Inslee announced — almost exactly one year to the day after he issued an order closing schools statewide to confront the rise of COVID-19 — that he will sign an emergency proclamation requiring all K-12 students in the state be provided with some in-class learning by the end of April. The order requires that by April 5, all students in grades K-6 must be provided a hybrid model of instruction with at least some in-class learning, and by April 19, all students in grades K-12 must be provided some in-class instruction.
Continue reading Governor Inslee Orders All Students To Have Option of In-Class Instruction by April 19
by Sarah Stuteville
A month ago, I woke up to a man with a broken jaw and a story about being a secret CIA operative sleeping on my porch. Last week a woman amid a mental-health crisis followed me and my four-year-old to our car screaming. Over the weekend my husband was punched in the head by someone who appeared to be having a psychotic episode. A few nights ago, gunfire echoed through the hot, exhausted streets of my neighborhood.
In all these cases, people desperately needed help, and in none of these cases did I call the police.
Continue reading OPINION: Who You Gonna Call? Not the Cops.
by Dr. Daniel H. Low, Dr. Amish J. Dave, and Dr. Rajneet S. Lamba
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, a broad array of activists and public figures have called for defunding the police in towns and cities across the nation. For many Americans, police officers are often the first responders to small and large crises. While surveys suggest much of the public wants police reform, there is concern that defunding efforts could erode the safety of our communities. Other voices argue that mere police reform is insufficient. Research has shown that measures such as implicit bias training, body cam usage, and firing problem officers with a history of misconduct have not led to meaningful change. In the interest of public safety, we are all vested in understanding how acute crises would be addressed if we were to defund police departments.
Continue reading OPINION: Crisis Management Is What Doctors Do Every Day. The Police Can and Must Do Better.