Yet another disturbing video shows an American police officer terrorizing the very people who called him for help. But even more tragically, it highlights how our society demands our police officers fulfill social roles they are staggeringly unqualified for — and how America fundamentally fails to provide anything for its citizens except violence.
What should have been a routine domestic disturbance call in Bethesda, Arkansas at the home of Kevin and Kandy Dowell turned terrifying when a police officer immediately turned aggressive, needlessly drawing his Taser and pointing it at everyone involved, including a child.
“It was just on from there. I mean as soon as that man broke through my threshold, he was aggressive. It was just awful. It was a nightmare,” said Kandy Dowell to KAIT8 News. “That’s when I see that red dot hit my child’s stomach and I lost it. I was like, ‘He is so out of his mind, I think he’s fixin’ to kill my child.’ Aiming for my husband, but shoot my child in the process. I was scared to death. I was scared for all of our lives.”
Kevin Dowell suffers from PTSD and depression, and police calls to the Dowell home is a common occurrence to help defuse fights. “They come out here and they usually help us grab a bag and we leave. That’s usually the end of it, but this time it was not.” Kandy Dowell said that “certain cops knew exactly how to handle her husband.”
The incident was resolved when a Sheriff arrived and deescalated the situation. The officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
Dowell tried to warn the cop about her husband’s mental struggles but to no avail. “He did not listen to me at all when I tried to tell him about my husband’s mental illnesses,” said Dowell.
The incident is terrifyingly similar to the Sunday killing of George Zapantis by the NYPD, who was tased twice by officers and died of cardiac arrest. A neighbor tried to tell the police that Zapantis was bipolar, but he too was ignored.
While the officer’s behavior was appalling, it is beyond frustrating that there was nobody else that the Dowells could have called. A minor domestic disturbance such as this should not require a police officer, but you cannot simply call a social worker to respond to incidents like this in the vast majority of the country, because there aren’t any. Nor is there any free mental health services for Mr. Dowell to take advantage of and teach him to deal with his PTSD in healthier ways.
Instead, families are forced to call the police, who spend 61 hours in their astonishingly short training regimes learning how to shoot a gun but just 8 hours on conflict resolution. As the Dowells learned the hard way, it is a roll of the dice to see how the police will react when they are called; especially if the citizens involved are black, there is a significant chance that it will be the people who called for help in the first place who are harassed, arrested, or even killed.
This sad incident is just more evidence that America needs to defund its gargantuan police departments and start spending money on services to help people who really need it. It is unfair and unreasonable of us to ask our police officers to be social workers, marriage counselors, babysitters and crime-stoppers at all once — but we spend so much on our cops that there’s no money left for anything else.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.