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If only the Police association were as worried about shooting people, as they are when they are shot by a community member

During my HUSO1215 assessment #1 typing, I took time out to read the latest Victoria news online. They one that caught my eye, was "End solo patrols, urges union" in response to the sad events in the outer N.E. of Melbourne on the weekend that involved a male police officer and a young male community member. The quote that took this article from a piece of news to a piece of 'what did he just say!!' was the line:
“He also wants a review of policies that allow institutionalised people with a psychiatric history to be released into the community. Bailey had a history of mental illness diagnosed as obsessive compulsive disorder.”
"The question is, has the policy gone too far in a general sense that has led to a member being put at risk and the community being put at risk?" Mr McKenzie said.

He being the Police Association assistant secretary Bruce McKenzie, referring to the young male that shot the male police officer and then took his own life. Many arguments about roles and responsibilities will come out of this event, and will bring many painful arguments to the table for discussion. Painful, but any discussion away from reality tv is a blessing.
So then, what have I done about this outrage? I have contacted the Police Association assistant secretary Bruce McKenzie, and I spoke to his secretary. I asked what was the context of this quote, and what is the exact meaning of his perceived policy improvements. Firstly, she was surprised 'a lay person not connected to the press' was calling to ask this question, and secondly, absolutely did not know how to answer this question. My name and number has been taken, and I am to receive a returned cal by COB today. (Stay tuned for PART 2: THE ANSWER).
It saddens me that these events do take place, but what saddens me even further is the labelling of one person, to be reflexed onto society. Imagine if you were hospitalised for OCD related to excess washing of your hands? Does this mean you will no longer be allowed to hold a driver's license and be let out after dark, as you will shoot a policeman on the way home from a 21st party? This article has offered us a chance for reflection of our process of public policy, and how is it implemented, enforced and updated. Let's hope this is managed in a balance argument in our State Government.
PART TWO: At 1619 today, I received my returned call. What was outlined to me was that the Herald Sun had paraphrased content that came from a discussion that the Police Association is concerned that (an example of the psych hospital in Ballarat was given) on day 1, 600 people were institutionalised for mental illness, and then on day 2, that institution was closed, and those 600 people were released without society integration, and the only public service that MUST attend to all phone calls is the Police. The relevance of this statement, was that Police are not equipped to respond to these calls, and that this incident has brought up the policy of de-institutionalising certified patients, and that the Police wear the brunt of this. We shared a 22 minute phone call, and it was good to talk to the Police Association. They have used this media outlet to raise a burning issue, that is affecting the amount of public and police officers' lives being lost on duty, and that it should be reviewed and it is a community issue. Public safety, and public welfare, and the supply of Police officers, to me falls under the wider banner of Planning, and how we help build better communities. Thank you all for your comments.

General 26th April, 2005 14:23:30   [#] 


Tombstone safety...
While I'm not sure of the specific relevance of this to an urban planning society, it's an interesting topic anyway...

There is an assumption in our society that every premature death is a failure that requires "something to be done about it"; usually the public (or the media) demands that something be done *right now*.

Governments are both pushed by this and use it for their own ends. In the need to appear responsive, they are sometimes pushed into doing things that make little objective sense but are the first things that pop into unimaginative people's heads; for instance, the billions of dollars spent on airport security since 9/11. More savvy governments can manipulate this for their own ends; if you don't want to do anything you call for an "extensive review". Sometimes the "extensive reviews" turn up useful policy recommendations, but not always. If you're feeling particularly Machiavellian you use the opportunity to do something you wanted to do anyway - to take 9/11 again, the US federal government imposed something called the PATRIOT act, which removed some restrictions on wiretapping by the FBI for "terrorism" (and is now being used on organised crime cases...).

The broader point is that we should be very wary of immediate action in the wake of a tragedy, because the proposed actions are often ill-considered (which, to be fair, this call probably was rather than anything else) or pushed to promote other agendas; and, sometimes, the correct response is simply bury the dead, reflect, and move on.
Robert Merkel  26th April, 2005 15:09:09  

Unless it is part of a larger crisis
While I agree with what Rob says above, it should be added that the policy of de-institutionalisation has been in serious need of a proper examination for some time. There have been interesting discussions on the topic at John Quiggin's blog here and here, as well as on catallaxy in the past year.

Far too many people with known mental illnesses end up in prison, or homeless - which is a planning issue - or worse, dead. Few - if any - reports on police shootings don't include the phrase "the victim had a known history of mental illness", so I sympathise with police who want the policies examined. They aren't psychiatrists, and they are being put into situations that could be preventable.
Russ  26th April, 2005 16:54:14  

OCD not associated with harming others...
Russ, you have a point with regards to deinstitutionalization, but in this specific case (on the basis of the of course limited and second-hand information in the media) I'm not sure that you can make a connection between this person's mental illness and the violence they committed. OCD is not typically associated with violence towards others.
Robert Merkel  26th April, 2005 17:27:45  


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