Friday, April 25, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

My turn: Looking back, moving forward: Avoiding tragedy

By
From page A4 | November 14, 2012 | 7 Comments

Most days pass without much special attention or reflection. Yet it is part of the human experience that certain events are branded into our memory, whether good or ill.

A day that is seared into my memory is June 5, 2007. That is the day when I — a relatively new reporter with the Mountain Democrat — and a photographer, returning mid-morning from an assignment in Cameron Park, veered off Highway 50 at Ponderosa just moments after hearing on the scanner of a shooting nearby. We arrived at property on South Shingle Road. As the photographer snapped pictures of an EMT attending a fatal gunshot wound inflicted on the victim, I began taking in the surroundings, wondering who would shoot this man and why.

We soon learned that the victim, Art Mies, had been shot by his beloved but seriously mentally ill son Eddie Mies, who was still on the property. By the time noonday had passed, Eddie Mies also was dead, shot at the hands of an EDSO deputy.

This was not a solo event. Within a year, three other people known to have mental illness were dead at the hands of law enforcement: Rajan Vaid, 23, El Dorado Hills, (killed Sept. 11, 2007); Matthew Zaiser, 26, El Dorado Hills (killed May 24, 2008); and Mark Moody, 41, Camino (killed June 12, 2008).

The last shooting incident involving a mentally ill individual — in what the 2010-2011 Grand Jury report called a “disturbing trend” — occurred on March 28, 2010 when a 5150 detainee from Folsom, 39-year-old Linda Clark, escaped from Marshall Hospital in an ambulance whose keys had been left inside the vehicle. Clark was killed by Placerville police officers after a slow chase from the hospital to a driveway off Cedar Ravine, where the shooting occurred.

These events were tragic. For the families, certainly, but also for the officers involved in the shootings. I had occasion to interview three of these officers — one of the shooters and two others, each of whom were acutely impacted by the incidents. One officer later took her own life; the other two were forever scarred mentally and emotionally … all from performing their sworn duty to protect and serve the community.

Tragic indeed. But what would make these events even more heartbreaking is if we as a community did not learn from them new ways to handle these fragile individuals, the mentally ill in our midst, to try and avoid such catastrophes in the future.

I returned to freelance writing in late 2008 determined to learn what our local law enforcement agencies were doing to address this “disturbing trend” of shootings involving the mentally ill, as well as what other communities and agencies are doing across the country. I interviewed then-sheriff Jeff Neves, who also was deeply troubled by the rash of shootings and had assigned Sgt. Todd Hammitt the task of looking into what could be done.

I met with Sgt. Hammitt, who was in charge of officer training and had initiated a specialized training program called Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for EDSO officers. (To date, eight deputies have attended an 8-hour CIT training workshop, with more slated to attend in the future. After the Linda Clark shooting in 2010, Placerville Police Chief George Nielsen attended the training. Since then most of the police force have also attended the 8-hour workshop.)

CIT originated in 1988 in Memphis, Tenn. through collaboration between the University of Memphis and the local police department in an attempt to fill the void in typical police academy mental health training. While recognizing that police officers are not social workers, the program acknowledges that law enforcement by and large are first responders in a crisis where someone is experiencing a psychotic episode, and families depend on these officers to know how to respond appropriately to their loved ones to help prevent fatal outcomes. The CIT program met with such success that it quickly spread nationwide.

The goal of CIT field officer training is to de-escalate tension at the scene between the officer and mentally ill individual, and reduce the need for use of force during the encounter to improve the likelihood of a safe and successful resolution.

This type of learned response is in contrast to the usual way officers might handle the average individual they encounter. This person might submit to the authority of the officer, or become ambivalent or belligerent, but at least he is capable of rational thought and behavior. Decades of academy training has taught officers to exercise a progressively firmer hand (e.g., louder voice, rougher language, more physical contact) in situations dealing with people who do not immediately obey their commands.

Mentally ill individuals, however, are not in control of their faculties. Their nervous system is not sending the proper signals to the brain, or the brain is scrambling the information. They may be suffering a psychotic break — a period of impaired functioning, or a distorted or complete lack of sense of reality — and may not be capable of responding appropriately to what is happening around them.

Making matters worse, people suffering from mental illness often self-medicate with drugs (illegal or prescription) and/or alcohol, which can enhance the feeling of normalcy while in fact hampering even further their ability to function.

CIT training includes learning to identify some basic signs and symptoms of mental illness (bipolar, schizophrenia, etc.); stabilization and de-escalation techniques, including the effective use of language in line with the mentally ill person’s heightened sensitivities; and hands-on experiential learning as well as role play and group problem-solving exercises.

Editor’s note: This is part I of a three-part series of My turn columns by Denise Marie Siino. 

Denise Marie Siino is a former writer for the Mountain Democrat and a current freelance writer. You can find her writing online at www.denisemariesiino.com

Denise Marie Siino

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 7 comments

  • CatherineNovember 14, 2012 - 8:08 am

    Denise, Thank you for your informative column. There is so much that is broken, yet fixable, in how people with psychosis spectrum disorders, and their families, are forced to live. I don't know how you'll cover it all in three columns, but I hope to see information on anosognosia and Laura's Law. Police and criminal courts would be needed less if the law allowed a family member to demand that a very ill person (who doesn't known they're ill, and may not believe that their parent is their parent) receive supervised treatment in the community. Currently, the LPS additions to the Welfare and Institutions Code actually prevent adequate care. We've made a costly mess of how people with neurological disorders receive health care, often with tragic results. Improving the law could also reduce the number of what the press loves to call "rampage" killings.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Denise Marie SiinoNovember 14, 2012 - 8:26 am

    Catherine, Thank you for your comment. I intend to address Laura's Law and what families can do at a future time, as they are equally important topics.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jim RiordanNovember 15, 2012 - 10:30 am

    Denise, Please let us not forget that our Deputies’ sworn duty is to protect our citizens. While I feel sorry for those folks who have mental disorders I believe you must take into consideration the fact that law enforcement in many cases, perhaps a majority, face hostile encounters especially where weapons are involved, in which immediate action is, perhaps rightfully, considered the only response to avoid a greater escalation of violence or increased chance of injury to innocent persons. Further, your scenario describes situations wherein there is a close enough encounter with a mentally ill person to be able to communicate or observe odd behavior suggesting mental disorders. I may be wrong but in the cited Mies case, I do not recall our Deputies having the chance to get close enough to communicate or observe actions of the shooter such that they could tell the difference between mental illness or pure armed hostility. I understand both sides of that picture and am grateful that our local law enforcement Deputies volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. I also agree with Catherine's point that families who KNOW they have persons with mental disorders, should make a public record of that, such that Law enforcement on their way to an address or potential crime scene could be alerted, in advance, while enroute.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Levy WalkerNovember 15, 2012 - 11:05 am

    Hey Jim, Is that you on the catheter TV commercial? I think I've probably seen it about 500 times on MSNBC. You must be doing well with the royalties.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CatherineNovember 15, 2012 - 12:29 pm

    The thing is, Jim, if a person in your family has a serious psychosis disorder, and falls into the 50% of people who have lost the neurological ability to know they're ill, plus the very small percentage of ill people who become violent, legally the family is left completely vulnerable. The police won't intervene until there is actually danger, as in knives, guns drawn, bludgeoning in progress, etc., and that danger can arise cometely unexpectedly. We need laws that allow family to go to a civil court and say, my family member is ill and needs supervised medical care. Right now, this can't be done against an ill person's wishes. Everyone should support implementation of Laura's Law, AB1421, in the county, as this allows for early intervention. When a person is delusional, they are absolutely incapable of being responsible for their actions, and we currently treat mad dogs better than neurologically impaired humans.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Tail Wags The DogNovember 15, 2012 - 5:41 pm

    I ran across a You Tube Video that has a striking resemblance to the above article. http://youtu.be/a47TT4hah5c

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Johnny RebbNovember 15, 2012 - 11:32 pm

    ^^^ Bwahahaha!! That's classic!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

News

Heard over the back fence: Advice offered writers

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

 
Big marijuana find in EDH

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Jury: Sanford guilty of murder

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Initiative seeks roundabout vote

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

 
Sheriff cracking down on Tahoe pot grows

By Tahoe Tribune | From Page: A3

 
Burn permits required May 1

By Cal Fire | From Page: A7

County backs task force to reduce human trafficking

By Chris Daley | From Page: A13

 
5 years prison for child porn

By News Release | From Page: A14

A victim tells her story

By Chris Daley | From Page: A14

 
.

Opinion

 
Income inequality

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

Billingsley’s Bullets: Marriage makes me laugh

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

What happened to ‘fair and balanced?’

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 14 Comments

 
Red tape

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Is Ukraine in Asia, Europe or Latin America?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 20 Comments

 
Vote for Parlin

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

County and ‘Miwoks’ getting together

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Ray Nutting’s donation for DA

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 7 Comments

.

Sports

 
Brown leads Golden Sierra

By Rebecca Reddish | From Page: A9

Cougars 1, Grizzlies 1

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A9

 
Cougars capitalize against Union Mine

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Troy unpends Davis

By Brandon Anicich | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
El Dorado wins tri-meet

By Mike Bush | From Page: A9 | Gallery

D’backs drop the ‘Hammer’

By Mike Bush | From Page: A9

 
El Dorado spikers blank D’backs

By Mike Bush | From Page: A10

Roundup: April 23, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A10

 
On tap

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A10

.

Prospecting

Amazing production brings the curtain down for Pete Miller

By Pat Lakey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Things to do: April 25, 2014

By Democrat Calendar | From Page: B2

Cool Beerwerks is very cool

By Krysten Kellum | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Placerville celebrates Earth Day

By News Release | From Page: B3

Handcar Derby to get pumping

By Folsom Handcar Derby | From Page: B3

 
IT presents a Reader’s Theater of ‘Our Town’

By Imagination Theater | From Page: B4 | Gallery

Enjoy spring with Steiner Road wineries

By Steiner Road Wineries | From Page: B4

 
Art and brew are a perfect pair

By News Release | From Page: B5

Spring cleaning is good

Press Release | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

 
Pinewood Derby rolls at Kniesel’s

Press Release | From Page: B6

The Sacramento Music Festival celebrates world-class music

By Sacramento Music Festival | From Page: B12

 
Oak Ridge Boys come to TJ’s Corral

By Carson Valley Inn | From Page: B13

Folsom hosts Spring Antique Fair

By Folsom Historic District Association | From Page: B13

 
Viviana Guzman performs at Petroglyphe Gallery

By Petroglyphe Gallery | From Page: B13

Pioneer Jews of the Gold rush

By Folsom History | From Page: B14, 1 Comment

 
Time to join the El Dorado Community Concert Association

By El Dorado Community Concert Association | From Page: B14

.

Essentials

.

Obituaries

Frances Estelle Gilluly Fraulob

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Dorothy L. Irvin

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Jeanine Rae Henderson-Hodges

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Thomas David Ewing

By Contributor | From Page: A2

John Lawrence Olson

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Jack O’Camb

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Wesley M. Nyquist

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
.

Real Estate

Spring statistics suggest slower sales

By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

 
Time to spring outdoors and fix them up

By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS7

Nation’s existing home sales remain soft

Press Release | From Page: HS20

 
.

Comics

Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A11

 
Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A11

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A11

 
Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A11

Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A11

 
Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A11

Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A11

 
Horoscope, Friday, April 25, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A12

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A12

 
Horoscope, Sunday, April 27, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A12

Horoscope, Saturday, April 26, 2104

By Contributor | From Page: A12

 
.

Home Source

Spring statistics suggest slower sales

By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

Time to spring outdoors and fix them up

By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS7

Nation’s existing home sales remain soft

Press Release | From Page: HS20