Dealing with the mentally ill

Traffic Control

Tonight I was dispatched to a call involving a man who was yelling and kicking cars in a parking lot. I arrived a short time after the first cop got there. When I arrived, I saw a man on his knees  in the parking lot as the officer spoke to him with a  calm voice.

His shoes were off and he was yelling about God and Heaven. While he was on his knees he’d lean forward on his hands and make quick movements that made him unpredictable. It looked like he was going to tackle you at any moment. He also said, “Kill me.”

The other officer got his name and tried to get a phone number for someone who knew him so we could try and help him. He only gave us his name and birth date.

The time finally came for me to pat him down for weapons. Yes, he was mentally ill, but we needed to make sure there were no weapons, especially after the call for service and the behavior we saw.

I knew he needed to hear clear instructions because of his mental state. I told him to put his hands behind his back because I was going to pat him down for weapons.

He turned his head with a serious look and said, “What if I don’t want to?” His voice was something out of a horror movie.

He might’ve been crazy, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew enough to process what I said and what his answer was going to be.

I moved from behind him and said, “Look at me.”

The man, who was in his 50s, looked up at me. He stopped momentarily from picking imaginary bugs off of his body. I knew he wasn’t processing information normally, so I spoke slowly and firmly to him.

I told him I was there to help, but I needed him to cooperate. I also said, “I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to fight.” I let that sink in for a moment before I said, “Can you put your hands behind your back for me and help me out?”

He  listened and nodded his hand. I grabbed his hands from behind and stood him up. I told him not to move and started the pat down. He turned to his left and I firmly said, “Stop moving.”

I held onto his hands like he was going to turn and fight at any moment. After I was done with his left side, I switched hands and checked his right side. Once that was done I let go and he went back down to his knees and continued what he was doing before.

I was lucky he listened. He was eventually transported to the hospital for a mental evaluation.

I didn’t do anything special. I just did the same thing thousands of cops did Monday. I dealt with a mentally ill man who could go off at any moment. A fight with him would’ve been a code 3 response for help and injury to us.

No one wants to deal with a mentally ill person who can attack you at any moment, but that’s part of the job. We do it because someone called 911. We go toward the craziness when other people head the other way.

Anyone who wears the badge knows what I’m talking about. Be safe out there.

The 12 year old and the knife

The other night a call went out over the radio about a 12 year old who was locked in a bathroom with a knife to his throat. I heard this and gathered my paperwork. As one of my department’s negotiators I also responded to the call.

While I was en route, dispatch advised that the kid was on the balcony and possibly going to jump. The call was updated again about him leaving the knife behind and running away.

Two other officers arrived first to handle the call. When I got there I stood by and watched them talking with the kid’s sisters and grandmother. They asked the “who, what, where and why” questions, which were standard.

When there was a break in the conversation I asked the handling officer, “Do you mind if I ask some questions?”

I took my notepad out as I stepped forward. I didn’t ask the sister what her brother was wearing or his height or weight. I looked at the girl and said, “What does he like to do?”

I wanted to know more about him as a person in case I needed to talk him off a bridge. I wanted to know his likes and dislikes. I wanted to know what he did for fun and what he liked to talk about. I wanted to know about his parents and who he got along with. I also wanted to know about their living situation.

I took notes while she told me about her brother. After a few minutes I felt like I had enough to talk about with him if the opportunity came up. I turned toward the other cop and said I was done. I stepped aside and he continued.

A minute later the sergeant said, “He’s back.”

Well, at least he wasn’t on a bridge with a knife in his hand. I walked outside and went down the stairs to where the kid was. He was sitting on the stairs with his head down.

The officer, who was in his mid-20s knelt down and asked, “What’s wrong?” The kid just sat there and didn’t move. The cop asked the kid numerous times, but it was as if he wasn’t there. The young cop even said, “We want to help.” The kid just kept his head buried in his hands.

The second cop came down the stairs and looked at the first officer. The first said, “He’s not talking.”

The second cop asked the kid what was wrong and what happened numerous times. Each question was met with silence. Both cops looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

I asked, “Do you mind if I try?”

I walked over to the kid and turned to sit down on the steps next to him as I said, “Move over.” He had to move over because I was sitting down whether he was there or not. I took my seat and looked over at him.

He was about the same size as my daughter, who was the same age. I couldn’t help but compare the two. I wondered what was going on inside his head and what brought him to this point.

Earlier this kid had a knife to his throat at about the same time my daughter was having fun at gymnastics practice. Her biggest worry was her 4.0 GPA and a four-hour gymnastics workout. This kid had much bigger problems.

His head was still in his hands when I said, “So, tell me about Clash Royale.” That was the game his sister told me about.

He raised his head and smiled. It was like I flicked the light switch on.

“Ah, you smiled,” I said. This made him smile some more. “Tell me about the game. I don’t know what it is.”

Thats when he spoke.

After he was done talking about the game I said, “I hear you like to draw the characters from the game.”


“Which ones?”

After he was done I pulled out my phone and asked him if he wanted to see a video of my son being mad and trying not to smile. He nodded his head and I hit play. I said, “I call him a man-child. He thinks he’s a man, but he’s still a kid.”

The boy laughed as he wiped away tears from his face. I had him now.

I next asked him about the Golden State Warriors and his favorite player. He talked about that also and  I was thankful he didn’t ask me any questions because I’m not a basketball fan.

Now that the ice was broken I asked, “Did you put the knife to your throat?”


I next asked him why he was mad today. He told me his sisters were bothering him.

“My sister and I used to bug each other too, but we’re friends now,” I said trying to sound encouraging.

After a few more minutes of talking I pointed to the other cops and said, “I think they feel bad you talked with me and not them. Can you talk to them now?”

The boy nodded his head.

It was now time for me to go. I shook his little hand and said bye to him. I walked up to the other officers and told them what he said about the knife. They took over from there.

Feeling proud to be a negotiator, I walked through the run down apartment complex and out to the street toward my car. I felt like I had made a difference today. I might not have talked him off a bridge or a rooftop, but at least I got through to him in his time of need.

That was a win today.



Photo from

The other day I was at the station getting ready to go 10-8 when a sergeant broadcasted on the radio that he came across a non-injury collision. About a minute later he came back on the radio saying a postal truck was involved and the parties wanted a report.

He also inquired about another crash involving a postal truck and asked if his call was the same as the other. I didn’t know what he was talking about so I paid attention to the next transmission.

The dispatcher came on the radio telling him there were two separate collisions involving postal trucks. One was at his location and the other was in the western part of the city.

I keyed the mic as I said, “729.”

“729?” the dispatcher parroted back.

“729, confirming the crashes have gone postal?”

The radio was silent for what seemed like forever. It was an awkward silence like when someone farts in an elevator and you can’t wait for the doors to open.

The silence was finally broken as she acknowledged me.

I got into my car and looked at my MDT. There was a message from DSP1 that simply said, “REALLY????!!!”

“I couldn’t resist,” I typed back.

I went to the crash and handled it. About 35 minutes later I was ready to clear the call, but I needed to get on the radio one last time.



“Are there any other crashes involving postal trucks that are holding?”

“Negative,” came the reply.

My MDT beeped as “MESS” appeared on my screen from DSP1.

What other time am I ever going to say “postal” on the radio twice  in less than 40 minutes? Probably never again.

Sometimes you just have to roll with it and have fun.