The intent was apparently to help Marlene Pinnock, a woman with mental issues who was heading dangerously close to the freeway. Moments later, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer had Pinnock on the ground and was beating her, as shown in a video taken by a passing motorist.
The general indignation caused by this is logical. There is no doubt about the assault perpetrated by thelaw enforcement officer, even though the entire context of the incident was not captured on video.
In this case the rapid response by CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow is laudable. He met with civil rights leaders to call for calm. Now it is a question of conducting a credible, thorough, independent investigation to rebuild trust in the African-American community, and generally address the concerns of Angelinos shaken by this incident.
At the same time, this brings the problems that law enforcement has in dealing with people with mental illness back to the forefront.
For example, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is under investigation for its mistreatment of detainees with psychiatric problems, who should be somewhere more appropriate for their condition than in jail.
This reality requires police departments to train their officers to properly deal with individuals with mental difficulties. In this case it is hard to understand how the incident shifted from help to a beating, no matter how much the 51-year-old woman aggressively resisted following the CHP officer’s instructions.
Farrow said that his agents were recently trained in how to deal with people who may be mentally ill. Apparently, the training was insufficient for at least one agent.