In recent events, 30-year-old Angelo Quinto passed away after an altercation with Antioch police. Angelo’s sister had initially called because he was acting aggressively towards their mother. He was going through a mental health crisis. The cause of death was determined to be due to excited delirium, acute drug toxicity, and arrest-related physical exertion. The reason why his death is so controversial is because a lot of people have compared it to the death of George Floyd. Similarly, both George Floyd and Angelo Quinto died by an officer using excessive force onto them while being handcuffed.
These kinds of deaths indicate the necessity for every police department to provide more training in de-escalation methods to all police officers, independent for how long they have been in the force. As written in the Associated Press (2021)‘…a little reassessment, a little de-escalation, reconsideration of where you are and who was involved.” While it may not be as easy as a “little of something” it is clear that in the past police officers who were not trained to deal with mental health issues or recognize them, using physical force is the most common response. According to the Quinto’s attorney, the officers involved failed to de-escalate the situation by talking with Angelo, who was never combative (Associated Press, 2021). It was also noted that the officers falsely told paramedics that Angelo was on methamphetamine and ransacked the family’s home without any evidence that claim.
In multiple videos that had surfaced online, the sister emphasizes how she only called the police to have assistance in calming down her brother. By the time that the officers arrived, Angelo was being cooperative. In her opinion there was no need for them to use excessive force like they did. HIS emphasize that “without specialized training; never consider the use of physical force as your first response” (HSI, n.d.). Which highlights the importance to talk about these issues and to demand that appropriate training is provided to all first responders, not just the police department. I think it’s safe to say that the police department needs to reassess the type of training they give officers when handling a situation with someone that is struggling with any type of mental health issue.
Mehari et al. (2021) conducted a study on 98 police officers that attended a workshop on de-escalating situations with trauma-exposed youth. The results showed that the training was well received and that workshops like these can lead to a decrease in the use of force in interactions with adolescents. With having workshops or training available to the police officers, they can increase their knowledge in how to de-escalate situations in their field. Calm, assess, facilitate is described by Michele Saunders (n.d) as the three most essential de-escalation techniques. Further, she explains, “Calm: to decrease the emotional, behavioral, and mental intensity of a situation. Assess: to determine the most appropriate response as presented by the facts, and Facilitate: to promote the most appropriate resolution based on an assessment of the facts presented.” These techniques such as building hope, presenting oneself as calm, and not to get personally attacked can and will change the outcome of a situation in which mental health issues are treated usually first with force.
Moreover, it is suggested that training that involves the acquisition of communication and active listening skills is an effective intervention tool that not only helps individuals who are in crisis but also reduces police liability and injury (Olivia, Morgan & Compton, 2010). De-escalation techniques are not only a way for officers to minimize the need for using physical force when it comes to intense situations, but also a way to lessen that gap of trust between police officers and civilians. Due to deaths like Angelo Quinto’s, there is not much trust that civilians can put into the police officers that are supposed to be protecting them. I am hopeful that with all the controversy surrounding police brutality in recent years that there will be more opportunities to have better and more effective training for police officers to handle mental health crises. Things are going to have to change sooner rather than later with the community putting more emphasis on the way the police department handles these types of situations.