Very few words can sum up my disgust. My hatred. My anger. And with all the emotions that rise to the tipping point of what my consciousness can handle, I am left physically recoiling from the very thought of our police, nay political state. Endlessly questioning on when our cops became the true parody of Dredd, winning the tittles of Judge, Jury and Executioner. What powers have we as an American people given up to be ruled by fear and abused by authority? If our governed figureheads, time after time, choose to make examples of citizens for petty crimes, then why doesn't the unlawful murder at the hands of a cop weigh in the same? Why do we settle on only blaming the cop and not the departments that employ, teach and train them? Surely the Commissioners, Chief Of Police and Legislatures who issue leniency and minimum repercussions towards their own in uniform, gravely affect the outcome of how the following officers carry themselves - conduct their duties.
But alas, I am getting ahead of myself. Frustration in the fingers taking over a taught mollified mind. The beginning and end of this train of thought solely deals with the media and the corporal mistreating of Kelly Thomas. Admittedly, I wonder if maybe I’m only scratching the surface of what consists in this corrupt system.
For those of you who are not aware of the case, Kelly Thomas was a 37 year old, homeless - schizophrenic who was relentlessly taserd and beaten by six Fullerton, California police officers in the Summer of 2011. He unfortunately passed away five days later from the broken bones in his face, and by asphyxiating on his own blood. The coroner would later reveal that Mr. Thomas’s thorax was also compressed which resulted in his brain being deprived of oxygen. If you can stomach the 30 minute surveillance video that captured the whole altercation between Mr. Thomas and the officers, notably Manuel Ramos, Joseph Wolfe and Corporal Jay Cicinelli, you will be heartbroken to witness a man,
calling out for the mercy and aid of his father and God, while a gang of unprovoked police pummel him to his eventual demise.
With heavy media coverage that circulated the video evidence of the altercation and pictures that documented the physical damage of Mr. Thomas, the public demanded reparation. The offending Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with one count second-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter, while Joseph Wolfe and Jay Cicinelli were both charged with one count felony of involuntary manslaughter and one count of excessive force. On January 13, 2014, however, in a succession of disappointing events, a judge dismissed all charges, an appeals court judge denied a request to overturn the lower court's decision and a district attorney announced that the case will not be pursued. We are persuaded to believe that justice was served.
Now tell me, please, if the tables were slightly different and this was a senseless beating of a homeless person by a regular citizen, what would have ultimately happened to that offender? Better yet, lets examine an actual incident that occurred on December 31, 2013. In Hawaii, a 16 year-old and his friends beat to death the 62 year-old homeless Anthony Montero. One of the unnamed teens was arrested and charged with manslaughter. The likelihood that the charges will be dropped is highly unlikely.
If we cast our gaze to the sensationalism that thrives in the veins of the media, we will see a bias pulse that determines what does and does not make national headlines. After all, the media is in the business to make money. Taking an unobstructed look at the Kelly Thomas case, several points need to be made about how the press reported the surrounding events.
1. Due to the harping captions of the media, the identity of Kelly Thomas was reduced to the labels of 'Homeless' and 'Schizophrenic'. Therefore, who he truly was before his devastating demise, is flattened out by his mental illness and financial status – he was sick and homeless before he was a person, or at least that’s what need to be strongly pandered, less ratings falter. Alas, the last emotional tune that plays for this mans life, is pity and one-sided anger towards the corrupt politics of police officers.
But why isn't the media also questioning the dismal state of mental health institutions within California? Surely it can be argued that senseless attacks such as those of Mr. Thomas and Mr. Montero could be avoided – an officer would never be called to make contact or be called - if there were proper inpatient care for the overall 30% of chronically homeless Americans who also have mental illnesses. Of which 5.4% (or 1.3 million) are Californians. In fact, comparison statistics show that in 1955, there was one psychiatric bed per 300 Americans compared to the alarming one psychiatric bed per every 3,000 Americans in 2005. The last time the state of mental inpatient treatment was in such a dismal state was in 1850, when there was only one psychiatric bed per 5,000 Americans.
California Mental Health stats report, "Individuals that have disabling mental illness and are homeless are incarcerated often for nuisance and petty crimes but when offered comprehensive community based treatment and safe housing – the incarceration and homeless rate drops to less than 2%.” Currently 10-20% of California's incarcerated suffer from some mental illness.[4
So once again, the copious quantities of questions still remain. If it has been continually and statistically shown that the current system that has been set up for mental health care and treatment within California, let alone the US:
A. Is wrongfully incarcerating rather then treating citizens with mental health concerns
B. Is increasing the homeless population
C. Is steamrolling over the number of people who are actively seeking mental health care
D. Putting Police Officers in comprising situations that might end in flawed decisions
E. Is overall, not effective
...then how come our government is not addressing these concerns? How come the media is not reporting this injustice? Why are deaf ears the only ones listening to this furor?
Earlier, when I asked why we settle on only blaming the cop and not the departments that employ, teach and train them? The pointed blame in fact falls squarely on both the comprehensive police force and the US politicians. Indeed, one hand washes the other, rather than leads by example. If our own government blatantly ignores and belittles its mentally ill and poor citizens, then why would its lawful enforcers treat them any better? Are these the weak-valued, authoritative puppeteers we really want to rely on?
Now before the ol’ bug-a-boo complaint of tax payer money enters the equation, let me point out that according to the 2002 Department of Health report, "currently it costs [California] about $40,000 per year to treat a person with disabling mental illness in a state prison and approximately $120,000 per year for treatment in a hospital. It costs as little as $10,000 per year for treatment through a community based mental health program." Certainly, broken systems are usually more expensive to maintain. I'll let that sink in for a moment.
2. I am bemused by the notion on whether or not the judge’s dismal of Mr. Thomas’s case will play on the medias mind past this Sunday. Of course the news is always changing; there is always something fresh to report. And so we are lead to believe that such utter disrespect, harassment and cold murder of the homeless only happens once in a while.
We are fooled. According to a 2010 report from the National Collation for the Homeless, the numbers of violent acts reported were 113 followed by 89 non-lethal attacks and 24 fatal ones.
Broken down, the statistical percentages of non-lethal attacks were as follows:
Assault w/ Deadly Weapon: 37%
Rapes/Sexual Assaults: 3%
Multimedia Exploitation: 2%
Setting Victim on Fire: 1%
(In 2007, around 10% of reported incidents involved police harassment and brutality)
Keep in mind, that a majority of these committed hate crimes are from the general public and that since 1999, there have more then a thousand reported attacks against the homeless.
All is not lost though. There has been some traction in the government to squelch these types of hate crimes. In a sadly ironic twist, in 2004, California passed a law mandating police officer training on hate crimes against the homeless - all cops are to watch a two-hour video educating them on how to better serve the itinerant community. Loosing traction, in 2011, California drafted legislation AB 312 and AB 2706, which allowed for a homeless individual to sue for higher damages if the attack was motivated by hate. Subsequently, both were vetoed by Governors Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On a national level, on April 15, 2011, the then preceding Washington State Legislature signed a law that included homelessness to a list of aggravating factors for hate crime examination. In all, this permits judges to impose harsher sentences on offenders.
However, steadily ignoring that this law was the belated response to a slaying of David Ballenger, a homeless 46 year-old man, which actually occurred in 1999 - 12 years earlier. He, like Mr. Montero, was murdered by a group of teenagers who proceeded to beat, choke and stab him up to 18 times. All but one of the offenders is already out of jail.
I call into question the contradictory nature of these laws. Looking at statistics, it seems curious on whether these laws are even being strongly enforced. California officers are specially trained to delicately deal with the homeless population, while judges are allowed to impose harsher sentences for vagrant hate crimes/deaths. Yet for Mr. Kelly Thomas, a death at the hands of officers that could have been easily prevented or at the very least, retributive by sentencing his killers to justice, there is nothing. No media to continually report and question these slaughtered atrocities of human life. No enforced action from our government to fix this broken, cyclical system.
It pains me to admit that history has played the same soulless refrain for the homeless and mentally ill. Two communities that have had to valiantly fight for equal rights and justice, for a voice, only to be shattered by the public hand when combined into one preventable group. Few eyes are there to acknowledge their existence; few backs are there for support and protection. I can’t help but look at my neighbor and question why they think they are above the inevitable change of wind that comes with life. As long as you walk this earth, having a mental illness, being physically disabled or in poor health, can never be avoided. Our minds and bodies do what they please; life itself, does what it please. No level of ignoring those who seek help will ever prevent the future tides from landing you in a similar predicament. So why, I ask, do we disregard, shame, hate, abuse and punish those who are in a different state of being as us? When that time comes for us, may it be old age, mental health, disability, joblessness, homelessness or all of the above, I hope that mercy and understanding will be granted to those who have cast their eyes down on their fellow man. That a tender heart will be there for your mother, father, family and friends who have fallen and called for help from strangers. We cannot let fear of authority stop us from seeking justice from the corrupt.
Finally, I dare not lump every officer, politician and the every-man who have given themselves to the higher cause of universal human preservation against the sycophantic loons of selfishness and barbarianism. These are the voices that will construct societies roots towards change. These are the individuals who will help undo the disparaging labels that have been woefully dropped on the differently able and financially hardshipped alike. For the uncorrupt and kind hearted amongst us, lets never forget the injustice of the Kelly Thomas’s who’ve been beaten down in our society. We fight for them. We invoke change for them.
If you live in California, find and contact your State Senator for justice and equality here
For additional information, watch 60 Minutes ‘Cook County sheriff tells 60 Minutes 'prisons are new insane asylums' here.
Read more at www.Sporkability.org
 AB 34 Report from 2002, State Department of Mental Health
[5 AB 34 Report from 2002, State Department of Mental Health