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Knife-weilding suspect arrested

By submitted, 06/2/17 12:54 PM


HOPE -On May 24, officers of the Hope Police Department, with support from Rainbow of Challenges’ Social Workers, successfully addressed a difficult mental health incident involving a female with a knife near the intersection of Mack and Texas Streets.

Chief of Police JR Wilson said, “We give our officers a lot of training with respect to dealing with people of diminished capacity. Our agency has adopted the “One Mind Campaign” initiative developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to help law enforcement officers be better prepared to address Metal Health Crisis. Last year all of our employees went through a Mental Health First Aid training course familiarizing our employees with a mental health action plan. The plan involves the acronym ALGEE which stands for 1) Assess Risk of Suicide or harm 2) Listen Non-judgmentally 3) Give reassurance and information 4) Encourage appropriate professional help and 5) Encourage self-help and other support strategies.” In addition to Mental Health First Aid, over the next few years HPD hopes to train approximately 25 percent of its officers in Crisis Intervention. Crisis Intervention is a 40 hour training module designed to provide more practical skills in addressing crisis intervention.

According to The Mental Health First Aid manual, “Mental disorders were once thought to affect very few, but today we know the opposite is true. Many people with these conditions lead full, productive, and satisfying lives. Despite living with a diagnosis such as substance use disorder, eating disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, people go to work, vote, own homes and businesses, and contribute to their communities. Even as negative myths abound there is hope and renewed optimism regarding outcomes of living with mental health challenges.”

Chief Wilson said, “Unfortunately the funding of mental health programs and needed facilities is lacking. There is a revolving door in the mental health field causing many with severe mental illness to be relegated to poverty and the streets of our cities. Using law enforcement to solve health crisis is problematic and does not serve the best interest of the nation. This has become a national topic of discussion among police and mental health professionals. Police across the Nation are seeing increased calls for service involving mental health crisis. It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of use of deadly force by Police involve a call for service involving a person suffering from a mental health crisis that is not being adequately treated. We desperately need to increase funding for Mental Health initiatives and appropriately address crisis situations.”

On May 24, at approximately 3:30pm, officers of the Hope Police Department received such a call in reference to a woman with a knife.

Officers arrived and observed Debbie Roach, a white female 48 years of age standing near a public street and holding what appeared to be a black handled steak knife. Employees of Rainbow of Challenges were on scene attempting to address the mental health crisis unfolding.

As officers attempted to get Roach to drop the knife, she placed the knife to her neck and threatened to kill herself. Cpl. Casey Singleton and Officer Jennifer Ghormley attempted to calm the situation, elongate time, establish rapport, and find a successful approach to communication for a peaceful resolution and emergency medical help.

During the conversation, Roach pointed the knife at Corporal Singleton and began walking toward him. Corporal Singleton retreated backwards to avoid confrontation while pulling his service weapon. Officer Ghormley approached Roach from the rear and deployed an electronic control device to the back of Roach incapacitating her. She fell to the pavement fracturing her arm. The officers removed the knife, took her into emergency custody for Involuntary Commitment and called for emergency medical response. Roach was taken to Wadley Regional Medical Center for medical and psychological evaluation.

Chief Wilson said, “I am very proud of the response of our Officers and the efforts of our local social workers. I am not sure this incident would have ended the same way in other jurisdictions. I am reminded of the remarks of a respected Law Enforcement Official who stated that in a study of 707 police involved shootings, 36% were found to involve the mentally ill or emotionally disturbed individuals. From a legal perspective, this interaction may have well met the legal threshold of a deadly force encounter. I hate to think of all the lives that would have been affected if this had occurred. I am not sure what would have happened had the TASER been ineffective, the Officers aim had missed, or merely a prong did not attach properly. Yet our Officers and the Social Workers on scene remained calm and worked diligently at risk to their personal safety to bring this incident to a peaceful resolution. I think our Officers operated in a tactically sound manner maintaining distance and creating opportunity for appropriate reaction time in the event a more violent action was taken by the subject. I am proud to work with people that are willing to put themselves at risk for the benefit of others. People like these Officers and Social Workers have my greatest respect. ”


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