No one got hurt, and that’s the main goal.
In the past month, there have been three incidences in Warwick that involved unregulated mental illnesses: the perpetrators were off their medicine and became violent, aggressive and unstable. But in all three instances, no one was hurt (aside from one officer who was struck by a baseball bat-wielding teen in May.)
Dealing with the mentally ill is an entirely different process than dealing with a common criminal, say experts, and the fact that no one (including the perpetrators) was harmed in these instances is a true testament to the training of Warwick Police.
Every officer in Warwick undergoes training to learn how to properly respond to and communicate with the mentally ill. The foundation of their response is communication, not force.
By speaking with the perpetrators, easing their fears and ensuring their safety, situations like those in the past month can often be resolved without any conflict.
But it can’t always be easy for the officers involved. Imagine getting swung at with a baseball bat, as was the case at a May 10 incident outside of John Brown Francis Elementary. Instead of using force to take out the young man, the police spoke with the man and eventually apprehended him. In a situation where the police were threatened, they reacted according to their training, not their human instincts.
Then there was the situation at Valero, where a man holed himself up inside the Post Road gas station with a knife. He threatened to hurt himself, not others, but it took careful negotiation to ensure that everyone walked away unharmed. It was quite the scene: a SWAT team surrounded the Valero as onlookers watched from across the street. What could have ended in public tragedy was resolved in 40 minutes by conversation and negotiation with a trained officer. Again, no one was hurt.
And, most recently, a man said to be off his medication streaked through a Warwick Wal-Mart, startling customers and employees. After a foot chase, the police apprehended him and took him to the hospital for a medical evaluation. Luckily, the man did not threaten or harm anyone inside Wal-Mart, and the police were able, again, to bypass the use of force.
It may sound simple, to talk someone out of something, but in reality it’s a tough job – certainly tougher than using a weapon or physical force to bring things to an abrupt end.
But it makes a world of difference, not just for the onlookers and police but for the perpetrator as well. The men involved in the past month’s incidences were not common criminals; they were in need of medical care. The police’s response to these situations ensured those men got the help they needed, without doing more harm than good, a step police hope ensures that no one gets hurt in the future.