One of the key tenets of the Black Lives Matter movement is the demand for a fundamental reconsideration of the role that the police play in American society and the need to begin reallocating public resources away from violent law enforcement to critical social services.
That demand was brought into sharp focus this week as yet another Black man was been failed by America’s disastrous mental health system and killed at the hands of a police force entirely unprepared to deal with his issues.
The family of Damian Lamar Daniels called the police on Monday, August 24th, saying that Daniels was having suicidal thoughts. The police visited the home but received no answer. Daniels himself called the police a few hours later, saying that he was “seeing ghosts” and “hearing voices” but did not let the officer into his home to check and see if anyone was there.
The next day, the police were again summoned twice to the house. The second time, they arrived to find Daniels outside with a weapon on his person. Deputies tried to speak to Daniels, who was not lucid, but half an hour later they inevitably ended up in a struggle with him and felt forced to shoot him twice, killing him.
The police claim they begged him to drop the gun and did everything they could to try to de-escalate the situation.
Yesterday in SA cops killed Sergeant Damian Lamar Daniels in front of his home. His family asked the Red Cross to get him to the VA.
He had a legal gun on his hip that he never removed. He didn’t want to go and he struggled when they tried to force him.
So they killed him. pic.twitter.com/q6U7OSXb6D
— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) August 27, 2020
The officers in question have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Once again, a mentally ill man who was in need of help ends up dead at the hands of police — a story that plays itself out time and time again in the United States. Daniels was a combat veteran and likely suffered from PTSD, but clearly could not get the help that he needed.
Having deprived all other social services of desperately needed funds and resources in order to fuel our cities’ colossal police department budgets, American society, rather unreasonably, asks its police officers to pick up the slack. They are expected to be social workers, mental health aides, family mediators in addition to “law enforcement” while receiving almost no training to do anything but fire a gun.
That is why mentally ill Americans are sixteen times more likely to die in an encounter with the police and are the victims in anywhere from one quarter to a half of all fatal police shootings. Had the police bothered to call a properly trained social worker — or if there was one available — the situation could have been easily de-escalated and an innocent man would still be alive.
We owe it to Sgt. Daniels and all those innocents killed by police to take a sledgehammer to the police department budget and start spending that money on services designed to help people, especially the mentally ill, and improve their lives without violence.
Colin Taylor is the 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.