Below is a letter I wrote to Dr. Randolph Dupont regarding Memphis crisis intervention training (CIT) in March 2008. It was never answered. On Tuesday, April 29, 2014, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee will hold hearings about CIT in Washington, D.C. Unless and until accountability is demanded of police officers who injure and kill citizens who posed no danger to police officers or others, CIT training will not guarantee any Change in the number of mental patients who suffer injuries and deaths by police. The mentally ill comprise over 50 percent of the victims of police-related violence in this country, and most people who were injured or killed did not pose an immediate danger to anyone. Crisis intervention training is far from being a panacea to the problem of police violence against the mentally ill. In my experience, the mentally ill citizens' abuses and deaths that occur after police are taken through crisis intervention training may actually be covered-up to prevent embarrassment to the government.
I urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to do more than institute crisis intervention training. Whereas police officers who killed Kelly Thomas may not have received crisis intervention training, they certainly knew it was illegal to beat an unarmed, surrendered subject to death. Whereas police officers who fired 40 bullets into Milton Hall in Saginaw, Michigan may not have had crisis intervention training, they certainly knew it was not lawful to do capital punishment by firing squad on a man with a little pocket knife who had done no crime (Hall had reportedly argued with a store clerk, which was worthy of a "disturbing the peace" misdemeanor charge at the most). The police officers involved in these two incidents completely ignored the police training they had already received. Their crisis intervention training is likely to also be ignored in a system where police officers are allowed to ignore the human and civil rights of citizens without any fear of reprisal. Because Thomas was white, police officers were charged with murder, and some were fired.
If police officers are trained in crisis intervention and choose to obey their training, what will that accomplish other than safe captures of mentally ill Americans to join the 1.25 million prisoners in this country who are mentally ill? I urge the passage of H.R.3717 - Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which would improve mental heath treatment in America and reduce the crisis incidents prompting police intervention.
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee should do more to reduce police violence against our mentally ill and other vulnerable people than recommend funding of CIT. When police departments complete CIT training and the excuse of "untrained police officers" is eliminated regarding deaths of mentally ill people, will the justice system do more cover-ups like when Larry Neal, a lifelong mentally, physically handicapped Memphis man, was murdered after 18 days of secret arrest in Memphis, the birthplace of CIT? Will it then be necessary to interfere with survivors' Internet and phone usage, employ unscrupulous lawyers to defraud grieving families, and appoint agents to follow and terrorize them to prevent discovery?
Randolph T. Dupont, PhD
University of Memphis
School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Memphis, TN 38152-3330
Re: Secret Arrest and Wrongful Death of Larry Neal and Subsequent Cover-up
I have read with interest how police departments all over the country are modeling their police departments after the Memphis CIT model. I suppose it may be partly to protect this image that my family is the only American family in the 21st Century to have a member secretly arrested and returned to his family as a corpse with no explanation, apology, excuse, arrest records, inquest, or investigation. At least, I certainly hope this is an uncommon tragedy and denial of due process of law.
See "Wrongful Death of Larry Neal.com"
The Memphis CIT has never explained how Larry Neal, a life-long mentally ill heart patient, could be secretly arrested in mid-July 2003, incarcerated for 18 days while his family and social worker looked for him as a missing person while Shelby County Jail repeatedly and falsely denied having him incarcerated, until he died of a fatal heart attack.
The Memphis CIT has never explained why The (Johnny) Cochran Firm, which was managed by Julian Bolton, Esq., 20+year Shelby County Commissioner and past Chairman, would then contract with my family to act as our wrongful death attorneys against Shelby County Jail, withholding from my family information about Bolton's position with our intended defendant, the jail where Larry died.
The Memphis CIT has never explained why Shelby County Jail neglected to send the Department of Justice an inmate fatality report regarding Larry Neal's death, when the jail was already under suit by the USA for previous violations of inmates' civil rights, and was required to send such inmate fatality reports under the terms of its Agreement with the USA.
Larry's family believes that his death was actually a euthanasia followed by an elaborate cover-up between The Cochran Firm and others to keep his wrongful death case out of court. Interested parties have also managed to keep his death and his family's quest for justice out of mainstream media, which likely would have led to investigation and closure for his family.
For years, I have written to:
- Shelby County Government officials,
- the U.S. Justice Department,
- Tennessee representatives, including the governor,
- United States Senators and Congressmen,
- mental health organizations,
- civil rights organizations,
- and civic leaders about Larry's death and the denial of any investigation and accountability.
We have sued The Cochran Firm twice to recover damages for tricking my family while under contract as Larry's wrongful death attorneys (secret conflict of interest, fraud, malpractice), and we are hopeful of getting answers during discovery of our present suit in USDC, Northern District of Gerogia. On our first attempt to sue The Cochran Firm, we served the suit to the firm's advertised Atlanta office, the law office that conducted our initial client intake interview the day Larry died. Strangely, this law office which was widely advertised as The Cochran Firm's Atlanta office on television, MARTA, Internet, Bell phone books, etc., had our suit dismissed in May 2006 by claiming it is no part of The Cochran Firm. Larry's family certainly hopes that nothing so fantastic will happen in our pending USDC case against this law firm. [United States District Court Judge Timothy Batten ruled in January 2009 that whatever The Cochran Firm did to undermine justice regarding the secret arrest and wrongful death of Larry Neal was "immaterial," and he dismissed the case without trial.]
CIT is a good idea, and I hope it benefits mentally ill citizens in the Memphis area and around the country. However, when there is a failure in the system, as evidenced by Larry Neal's secret incarceration and wrongful death, that failure should not be covered up at the expense of justice.
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill