This post is the hardest one that I ever expect to write.  In fact, it has been almost 7 months in the making.  It’s taken me that long be able to put my experience into words to explain my story – especially in a way that would be readable to those who weren’t personally involved.

I would say that many Americans  are wondering if law enforcement is prioritizing what is truly important.  Especially with the “Occupy” movements being publicized around the Nation.  What are they focusing on?  Are they here to truly protect and serve us?  Not in my experience.

If you were like me, growing up you heard stories about how police officers were there to help you.  “If you are ever in trouble- try to find a police officer.”  “Drive to your nearest police department.”  “Call 911!”

How many times have we all heard these phrases?  And we believed them, at least I did.  I believed that police officers where there to help.  That they were on the job, risking their lives each day, in order to keep order.  To HELP those who needed them.

I can think of many circumstances, as I am sure many people can, which have made me question if I can trust the law to keep me and my loved ones safe.  I have had difficulties in having the law uphold my restraining order; in protecting my children; in protecting those I love and THEIR children..  But, the ultimate betrayal and confirmation of how little you can trust “officers of the law”  to hold up their end of the bargain came in the days leading up to my fiance’s death in May.

My fiancé was diagnosed bipolar.  He was taking all the right steps to try and control this disease.  He had started counseling.  He was making med changes on the advice of his doctors.  He was a fighter, and wanted to beat this disease.  But, he was sick.  He was so sick that his disease began to take control of him.  Just as a cancer patient whose deadly cells begin to multiply and take over.

He became suicidal.  He was repeatedly overdosing on his medication.  I personally requested the police to help.  To provide a “welfare check” or, in technical terms – a “5150 – Involuntary psychiatric hold.”   I asked multiple times , over several days – to no avail.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this piece of a police officer’s job, a “5150” is a 72 hour involuntary psychiatric hold – which a police officer can order.  When a police officer has probable cause to believe that “…a person, as a result of a mental disorder, is a danger to himself/herself or others or is gravely disabled, they can place this person into custody and place him or her in a facility for a 72-hour treatment and evaluation.”   In order to do this, the facility into which they are placed will also “require a written application stating the circumstances under which there is probable cause to believe that a person is, as a result of mental disorder, a danger to himself/herself or others or is gravely disabled”   In addition – this probable cause can be based on the statement of a person other than a police officer, or a professional person.  The legal consequence is – this person shall be liable in a civil action if they intentionally give a statement that he or she knows to be false.”

So – what this means is that a police officer can, either based on their own observations, or on another’s observations, commit a person to a psychiatric hold.   Not only did the Police Department refuse to perform this duty; but they actually lied to me about the circumstances in order to help protect themselves, and the bureaucracy they work for.  Why?  My only guess is to avoid possible retribution for not performing the duties that were assigned to them by law.

The beginning of the end happened during a medication change suggested by my partner’s Doctor.  He had always had issues with abusing his medications.  He turned to them when he was feeling sad.  Overwelmed.  Anxious. This time was no different.  His paranoia took over.  No matter what I said, no matter what anyone else said, he wouldn’t/couldn’t stop.   He needed some serious intervention.

I had to leave the house, due to my safety and the safety of my children.  But, I never gave up trying to get him the help he needed.

First, I called the crisis line.    They recommended that his counselor try to talk to him and convince him to go to the hospital.  If that didn’t work or if he seemed to be getting worse – they told me I should get the police involved. They also told me that there is a mobile crisis team that will come out and perform a wellness check.  Since there were weapons involved, they would need to be accompanied by the police, if it came to that.  He stopped answering his phone, stopped answering his door.   The only communication I received (anyone received) was a few incoherent text messages.

So, I called the crisis line back.  They recommended I call the police to get a mobile crisis team out to do a welfare check on him.  I called the police. I also called the mobile crisis line to ask them to come out as well.   The mobile crisis line said that it would be faster to have the cops call them to come out, once they arrived.

The police came out.   I told them I wanted a welfare check.  They told me that they would not call unless they were able to check on him themselves and see if they thought he needed it.  They told me to stay out of sight from the house.  I waited.  And waited.  They came back a few times and told me that they had been calling his number and knocking on the door but he wouldn’t answer.  Therefore, they couldn’t call the crisis unit – as they could not make a visual confirmation that he needed help (which, is not required – they could have called based on my statement!).  They suggested that I stay away from the house.   I asked them to talk to the neighbor as she had seen how desperately he needed help and could testify that he was not ok.  They told me that she was standing at her door when they came up; but that she closed the door on them.  They finally left.

I called the mobile crisis line back later that night.  I begged them to go over and check on him.  They finally agreed – and brought a police escort.  They called me back later that night; and said that they had been to the complex; but did not go up to the door as they deemed it too dangerous (with the police escort).  They told me they had tried to call but did not get ahold of anyone.

The next day came.  He left me one last text message.  Again mostly incoherent but obviously suicidal – a “goodbye”.  After that – his phone was turned off and no one heard from him for the rest of the day. He didn’t even call in sick to work, which he had always made sure to do in the past, and had done the past few days.

I called the police again.  I begged them to go over to the house.  I  told them that I still had a key, and that I could open the door so that they didn’t not have to worry about entering the house without consent (this was my home, as well).  I even offered to go into the house, but I wanted a police escort.  They told me that they would not agree to anything until I came to meet them.  So, I drove 45 minutes into town to meet with the cops.  Four or five officers showed up to speak to me;  even the captain came out.

They continued to refuse to go to the house.  They said it was too dangerous – because they had to walk up stairs to get to the house – and they didn’t have a good escape route.  They urged me not to go to the house either.  They used the excuse that they had already been out twice and couldn’t go again.  They tried calling – even though I told them his phone had been shut off all day.  One officer finally decided to drive by the house.  They came back, said his car was in the driveway and the lights were off, so it was obvious he was home.  I asked them how long we would have to wait before anyone would agree to check on him.  They wouldn’t give me an answer.  One of the officers finally took pity on me and told me that he would be on duty at 5:00 the next evening, so I could call back then and “maybe they would agree at that time.”

The next day, I was finally able to find a phone number for our neighbor.  I called and she confirmed that she had not heard any noise coming from his house since the previous morning.  At that point, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer.  I had to do the job that the police and refused to do; as it was “too dangerous” for them.

I entered the house, and found my fiancé.  Dead; by suicide.  Three days after I initially contacted the police, and the crisis team, for help.  Had they been willing to heed my calls at any time during those 2 or 3 days – my fiancé may have been able to get the help he needed –and he may still be alive today.  Now, dozens of lives have been shattered and the world has lost a wonderful human being.

Eventually, I went to talk to my neighbor.  What I found out is that the first time they came out to the house – she DID talk to them.  She opened her door and tried to tell them he needed help.  With their guns drawn, they told her to go back inside and lock her door.  They also talked to my fiancé.  They asked him if he had threatened me and he said no.  So they left.  And then, came back to where I was waiting and denied that they had been able to talk to either him OR my neighbor.  They were VERY aware that the reason I had called was for a welfare check only.  I had NEVER told them he had threatened me and I had made it very clear that he was suicidal, and that was why I was calling.   And, as anyone who dealt with him at all in those past several days could attest – there is NO way that any police officer would have been able to look at him and decide that he was ok, and that he did not need intervention.  Why would they have had to lie to me, if that was the case?  Why would they continue to lie to me – and in fact later tell me that it was “too dangerous” for them to go to the house; if they felt that he was not a danger to himself or someone else?

I cannot describe the helplessness I felt, when I reached out to the police for help.  But, it pales in comparison with the betrayal I felt when I realized that not only did they refuse to help; but they also lied about their involvement and the fact that they had actually made visual confirmation – which they  had stated was  necessary in order for the crisis team to intervene and save a life.

I wonder, many times, how these police officers feel.  Do they lose sleep at night?  Do they think about all they could have done – and in fact were employed to do – so save a human life?  Do they even CARE?

I understand that there must be good police officers out there.  Ones who truly care and risk their lives to help.  But, I definitely haven’t met any – and I don’t know if I can ever forgive them for refusing to try and save a very precious life.

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