Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Maybe she got tired of taking poison as an absolute. It stays in your system, and slowly kills you.

Three cops, a 17-year-old and 'a cry for help': why did Kristiana Coignard die?

Apparently, they found out she had a mental health record, and they just shot her outright, while claiming she had a weapon on her. I doubt that she ever did. Probably just having a mental health "reputation" was enough for innocent her to get shot dead by the police. Probably. Who can prove it?

Tom Dart in Houston

Just after sunset last Thursday, 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard entered a police station in Longview, Texas, a small city two hours east of Dallas with a history of police violence not all that different from the rest of the United States – but no less mysterious.
Coignard picked up a red, wall-mounted phone in the police department lobby and asked to speak with an officer – for reasons that also remain unclear.
The teenager may have been “wielding a knife”, according to the mayor. Police say “they were confronted by a white female who threatened them” – after which she brandished some sort of weapon, “made threatening movements toward the officers and was shot”. Motives on either side are still relatively unknown.
What is clear, nearly a week later in Texas and six months after police killings and community relations starting coming under renewed scrutiny across the US, is that another teenager has died after being shot “multiple times” by local cops. Three officers are on paid leave, the Longview police told the Guardian. A preliminary autopsy report has ruled the death a homicide.
And in the case of Kristiana Coignard, as in what advocates and sheriffs agree constitute more than half of US police killings each year, the victim appears to have had mental health problems.
Call it “justifiable homicide”: FBI statistics counted 461 encounters between police and those they killed with the threat of violence in 2013. Some have dubbed it “suicide-by-cop”, as about one-third of such cases can be classified – in addition to undoubtedly many more undercounted deaths. The hacktivist collective Anonymous prefers “trained to kill”.
Whatever you call the overlapping patterns of police violence and brief encounters with young and possibly unstable citizens, mental health advocates insist the United States is “not keeping track”.
“We’ve deputised America’s police to be mental health workers,” Doris A Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, told the Guardian. “We’re asking cops to make a split-second decision about whether someone is actually a threat to them.”
On a Facebook page for the Longview police, a user claiming to be Coignard’s uncle wrote that “for quite a few years my niece suffered from mental illness”.
The teenager was taking medication, seeing a therapist and living with her aunt, Heather Robertson, according to an interview with Robertson at ThinkProgress. She told the website that Coignard had struggled with depression and bipolar disorder since her mother’s death when she was four years old. Robertson said her niece had been “only violent with herself”.
“I think it was a cry for help,” Robertson said of the incident in the police department lobby. “I think they could have done something. They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us.”
There is video of the killing, Coignard’s aunt said the police told her.
A Longview police spokesperson, Kristie Brian, told the Guardian there are currently no plans to make footage available to the public. She declined to confirm the type of weapon Coignard allegedly brandished but said the department expects to release more details about the shooting later this week. The Texas Ranger Division is investigating the incident.
Brian said Longview officers “are trained in all kinds of different situations”, including dealing with people with mental health problems, and that the county has a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), which sees specially trained officers dispatched to urgent psychiatric situations. She said she did not know whether the three officers currently on leave had been CIT-trained.
Coignard is the third person – and the third young person – shot dead by Longview police in less than a year. No charges were filed by a grand jury against three officers who killed a 15-year-old robbery suspect during a shootout last March. A 23-year-old cook with a history of making threats died in August after a routine traffic stop went awry.
Three-and-a-half hours south, in Houston, the 2012 death of Brian Claunch had exemplified the potential for tragedy when police with limited training encounter a troubled individual in a pressurised situation. Though Houston has a widely praised CIT programme, two officers without that experience were called to a care home one night when Claunch, a schizophrenic, wheelchair-bound double amputee, started behaving erratically.
Police said that he grew violent and cornered an officer while waving a shiny object in their direction. Matthew Marin shot the 45-year-old in the head. The object proved to be a ballpoint pen. In June 2013, a grand jury declined to bring charges against the officer.
That year a police officer in Dallas was dismissed from his job, and indicted by a grand jury in 2014, after he shot a mentally ill man who was holding a knife but standing still several yards away. The encounter lasted less than 30 seconds from the officers’ arrival to the gunfire.
A 2013 joint report by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association found that while no national data is officially collected on fatal police shootings of the mentally ill, “multiple informal studies and accounts support the conclusion that ‘at least half of the people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems’.”
A third of “justifiable homicides”, the study found, could be characterised as “suicide-by-cop”, and many victims were not taking their medications nor under close supervision by mental health agencies.
Not unlike the larger call for more reliable nationwide numbers to address all police killings, advocates say a lack of firm data leads to a standard of police responses to encounters with the mentally ill that depends on officer training and varies widely from department to department.
“We’re not keeping track of that, so we don’t really have a handle on the situation,” said the Treatment Advocacy Center’s Fuller, adding that research indicated about half the US population lives in counties served by CIT policing.
Ron Honberg, national director of policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said his organisation has called on the US justice department to keep better track of deaths involving police and the mentally ill. Outgoing attorney general Eric Holder, whose replacement was expected to pass confirmation hearings on Wednesday in Washington, recently called the lack of more comprehensive police incident data “troubling”.
Honberg said the standard police response to someone behaving aggressively is often to “come in and be very assertive, and that can be exactly the wrong way to deal with someone who may be having a serious psychiatric episode” and may have a fear of the authorities.
While better training and protocols are vital, he told the Guardian, at their core the violent encounters are “a manifestation of a broken mental health system”.
Anonymous, in a video posted on Saturday, cited Coignard’s death as the impetus for a new operation called Stop Lethal Force on Children.
“In 2014, we watched as police killed children and it started a army [sic] of angry Americans,” the group said. “This teen girl’s death just put fuel on that fire.”
  • In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and the Trevor Project’s Lifeline is 1-866-488-7386.
I suppose the unbroken mental health system's answer to that is to keep someone in a mental institution, being paid for somehow, through the government or something, for life. That's not a good thing to do.

Fortunately, whoever it is who'd kept in there for life while they are "helping" them with extreme medications won't live very long. So I guess that does take care of the problem, when you think about it. On the other hand, "not very long," coming and going, can last up to over 40 years.