After everything that happened last year, it is beyond frustrating to see that innocent people keep on dying over and over and over again in the hands of law enforcement officers who refuse to stop using excessive force and violence against the citizens they have sworn to protect and serve.
The one of the latest victims of police brutality is Angelo Quinto, a 30-year-old Navy veteran. As happens in far too many of these stories, the police were called to perform a mental health check on December 26th by Quinto’s sister after he experienced “anxiety and paranoia.”
The police arrived to find his mother embracing her son upon the floor. The cops flipped him over, restrained him, and allegedly knelt on his neck for five minutes — just like they did during the killing of George Floyd.
And just like George Floyd, Quinto died after being restrained like that.
“Police came and snatched him from his mom…He said ‘please don’t kill me,’ and officers said ‘We’re not going to do that,’ and yet they did,” said a lawyer for the family, John Burris. “This was a healthy person before, no physical problems, and within moments, his life is gone.”
The Filipino-born Quinto was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2019 for a food allergy and began suffering from mental health issues after receiving head trauma in an assault last year.
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.
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 Angelo Quinto 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.
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.