Editor-at-Large: As I See It
(Column: Editor-At-Large: As I See It)
I'm Disturbed and Horrified
It is frightening out there. The mentally ill are becoming pigeons to be shot at and killed. The New York Police Department seems to have a license to murder us at will.
I wasn't fearful of the men in blue years ago. However, now I tensely pass them when I must. I no longer say hello or nod recognition. My words or gestures may be misunderstood. Sometimes, my sarcasm comes across as criticism. A joke may sound like an insult. I can't risk an angry response nor can you.
This isn't Fun City. It is Dodge City. The cops are trigger-happy. Why this occurred and when is a good question! The Wild West attitude of the men in blue hurts us and minorities as well. It seems to the police that we are easy pickings. I do not currently see an answer from the present insensitivity and uncaring NYPD. The cop on the beat or in the squad car are no friends of the mentally ill. We need a responsive, fair, compassionate and well-trained police force.
The police have always had special duty units to help New Yorkers. I remember policemen climbing the East River Bridge to coax a potential jumper down to street level. The mounted police would be used at parades and to manage other large crowds. The bomb squad would risk their lives defusing bombs. The harbor patrol would fish bodies out of the waterways whether dead or alive. I ask, why not an Emergency Service Unit for people in mental distress of one sort or another? Why not? All it takes is the will.
What is so very scary is the public at large doesn't shed a tear. This is the great tragedy. The public doesn't seem to care at all. They remain silent or angry.
Michael Cerbelli was tragically turned into Swiss cheese at a local police precinct over a year ago. He had schizophrenia. A few months ago, Gideon (Gary) Busch, a manic-depressive living in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn was blown away by the NYC Police. Andrew Goldstein still has his life due to a hung jury.* He is accused of pushing Kendra Webdale off a subway platform to her death. The media had a field day scaring the public and selling newspapers at our expense.
Only two lone jurors voted for acquittal of Andrew Goldstein. Are they typical of jurors in NYC or anywhere else in the country? Do so few understand what mental illness is and isn't? I hope not but, admittedly, as of this writing, I'm skeptical. Where do we go from here? I'm not completely sure! I thought public understanding of mental illness was getting better. I feel otherwise now.
Recently when Gideon Busch's brother was a guest on WEVD radio station's Alan Colmes Show, the venom of the callers was beyond belief. I listened in real horror. I asked myself, are these the real sentiments of my fellow New Yorkers? The hate in the voices and words against the late Gideon Busch and his brother were great. I sat near my radio listening. Is this the true reality of how the public feels about the mentally ill? Only one caller was sympathetic and she may have been a relative of a mentally ill person.
I have never called a radio show. Yet that night I was infuriated. I hesitated. Call or not call? Would I be articulate or sound like the stereotype ranting mental patient? I have flown off the handle verbally when upset or outraged! I picked up the telephone and dialed… Busy! I dialed again… Busy! At least I tried. However, I felt defeated and depressed.
The mentally ill have come so far since deinstitutionalization started. Yet we have so far to go to illuminate brutality and death due to the police misunderstanding us.
* Goldstein's guilty verdict was announced only days before we went to press and our editor-at-large is speaking of the first trial.