BY CARIMAH TOWNES POSTED ON JUNE 17, 2015 AT 3:08 PM UPDATED: JUNE 17, 2015 AT 4:40 PM
When Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice within seconds of driving up to him in a park, they failed to provide medical assistance for nearly four minutes. Even if they had tried to help Rice earlier, the CPD officers didn’t have a first-aid kit with them. A seven-month long investigation of the shooting concluded that one FBI agent eventually tried to administer medical assistance, but he only had rubber gloves at his disposal.
Now, thanks to an agreement between the city and DOJ, Cleveland officers are required to keep kits in their vehicles.
Most police departments give cops medical equipment, but four months ago WKYC-TV discovered Cleveland officers didn’t have the tools to administer aid, including first-aid kids and defibrillator machines. In compliance with a federal mandate following the DOJ investigation of the CPD, the city just acquired 800 kits — which come with tourniquets, chest seals, scissors, and gauze, and other basic supplies. They are the same ones used by the U.S. military, and 300 hundred of them will be placed in every one of the CPD’s zone vehicles.
“They are there to protect and serve. How can you do either if you don’t have first-aid kits?” asked Walter Madison, the Rice family lawyer. “Who knows what would have happened if the police gave him life-saving measures? There’s no telling if Tamir would still be here if those officers had acted with the same level of care as you saw the federal agent.”
The distribution of first aid kits is a step in the right direction, but the CPD’s prior lack of medical equipment speaks to a larger problem of its inadequate training. According to the DOJ’s scathing report of the department, officers resort to excessive force and have accidentally shot the wrong people. In some cases, they didn’t even mean to fire their weapons.
But lack of preparedness isn’t limited to the CPD. In many instances, officers across the country wind up hurting the people they’re called to protect.
For example, half of the people killed by police have a mental illness — many of whom were shot after a family member called law enforcement for assistance. Such was the fate of Jason Harrison, who was shot within seconds of police arriving at his door, and 18-year-old Keith Vidal who waswielding a small screwdriver. Experts attribute the alarming trend to a lack of adequate training. Some departments deploy special teams of officers and mental health professionals to deescalate situations involving people with mental illness, but standard police tactics, such asbarking orders and using excessive force, can actually agitate people in the midst of an episode.
Officers also often end up escalating situations with children. For instance, Rice’s 14-year-old sister was handcuffed at the scene as her brother bled on the ground. In the same vein, a newreport, found that children who witness an arrest of a parent experience trauma, stress, and fear. But most cops aren’t taught how to approach kids. They don’t know what signs to look for or how to connect kids with helpful resources. Experts with Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center (OJPDC) and Strategies for Youth, which co-authored the report, also agree that cops should avoid drawing their weapons and using handcuffs around children. But incarcerated parents said cops pointed weapons or handcuffed them in front of their kids — without explaining to the children what was happening and why.
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