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Police or Paramedics: Who Are Better In Dealing With Psychiatric Crises?

Posted Jan 24 2007 12:00am

While coming home in the car a while ago, I witnessed a scene outside a shop where two paramedics were painstakingly dealing with a man who was obviously mentally distressed. I only caught a brief glimpse of it all but it took me back to some experiences, some thoughts and discussions I have had with other people who have a veritable cornucopia of disorders. The paramedics were pleading with the man to get in to the ambulance repeatedly or else they would need to call the police.

Now I am not prone to generalizations and am always willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but in answer to the question above: Paramedics, absolutely.

In various times of crisis, hospitalization etc…, I have dealt with both individuals in these professions. I have met some decent coppers but at best, they have just done what was needed (save one man) without a modicum of care. The paramedics, on the other hand, have always been the most caring and least judgmental of persons and have always taken such good care of me. Some have even had great senses of humour too.

My most terrrifying experience with the police happened one night after speaking long distance to a friend of mine. I was rather down and had been drinking (or course) and was merely venting. Or so I had thought? My friend had apparently become quite concerned and called 911. As I was getting ready to pad off to bed, there was a knock at the door. I had no idea who it could be; it was quite late (or early…perhaps 0100hrs?) I answered the door and there stood five (yes five) police officers.

Alright. I’m not exactly up on police protocol but I don’t think they send that many officers to a domestic disturbance call. And I’ve never worked as a 911 dispatch operator either but I would assume that they would have asked some pertinent questions like if I was alone in the house?

They asked if they could come in. I was completely stunned. What do you say with five police officers standing in front of you, “No?” So I invited them in and they told me that they had received a call from “a friend” and that I “might be suicidal.” I told them that I was not and that I was just getting ready to go to bed. They told me that I would have to come with them to the hospital. I looked at one of the officers who was casually sifting through my mail and some of my writing. I became agitated. I told him to put all of those things down and that he had no right to look at them! I again insisted that I was fine and I needed to go to bed as I had to go to work in the morning! I didn’t need to go to the hospital! I told them that this was just a misunderstanding!

At this point, they became increasingly more forceful in their demands and I became more agitated and not combatitive but certainly argumentative. A female officer stepped right up to me, almost into me and threatened me with arrest if I didn’t go with them. That was it. No matter how hard I tried to convince them, I couldn’t compete with that.

They physically grabbed me by the arm and I told them to let me go as I wanted to put my shoes on. They told me there was no time for that so I ended up leaving the house with one bloody shoe on. Fantastic. They threw me into the back of one of the cruisers (they all still had their lights flashing!) and off we went.

My poor landlords. They were a great couple and didn’t even know what to do. They just hid upstairs–I had some serious apologizing to do later.

So we get to the hospital and I am fuming. I had been an inpatient there before and was seeing a psychiatrist there. I explained rather loudly to anyone who would listen how grand a mistake that this was and that I positively needed to get back home to get at least some sleep in order to get to work. My job really depended on it at the time! I could not afford to miss work! I even demanded that they call my psychiatrist at home, wake him up and he would deem me fine. I’m surprised after all the fuss I made they actually didn’t hospitalize me. But knowing the hospital as well as I did and knowing I didn’t need to be hospitalized I managed to get out of there as the sun was beginning to come up.

By that time, four of the officers had left and one stayed behind to wait with me. He drove me home. I gave him a little piece of my mind on they way and told him that police officers should treat people under such circumstances with a little more decency and respect. I don’t know if it made an impact as he simply told me, “We’re just doing our job.”

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