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One Cop's Take on Mental Illness, Homelessness, and Crime

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 10, 2023 3:04 am

One Cop's Take on Mental Illness, Homelessness, and Crime

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 10, 2023 3:04 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph shares vivid, compelling stories of one constant struggle for police, and for communities: The care and safety of those with mental health battles.

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The show where America is the star and the American people. Deion Joseph is a law enforcement consultant, author, and active senior lead officer in the downtown Los Angeles Skid Row community. He's here to share another story with us.

Here's Deion. The one thing that I was never able to really get a handle on, we were able to reduce crime 40%, reduce death 33%. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful achievements that we all engaged in. But the one thing we couldn't fix was mental illness. Mental illness will forever be the challenge of our lifetime, in my opinion. As a matter of fact, I think it's about the third or maybe half of the homeless problem, if you're thinking about it realistically. We all know that in America, our solution to, quote unquote, helping the mentally ill was to close down the asylums.

And then they sued, so nothing like it, nothing like it, even a better version of it could ever come back. So now you kick people out into the streets in the name of civil liberties, yeah, you're free. You sprinkle pills on them and tell them, bye, okay, come check on me every two weeks.

Come check in every two weeks. Never happened. Some of these individuals fell into the loving arms of family members, loved ones, who tried to help them. Others, too many of the others, ended up in places like Skid Row. And when they came to Skid Row, they would throw away their prescribed medication because it made them feel down. It made them feel lethargic.

And in Skid Row, you've got to be ready for everything. So they throw that away or sell it to make enough money to buy the hard stuff, the crack, the meth, the marijuana, and all this other stuff. And being mentally ill is not a crime.

I've stated this. Any police officer you talk to will tell you, being paranoid schizophrenic is not a crime. Being bipolar is not a crime.

Being depressed is not a crime. But when those things meet heroin, crack, methamphetamines, fentanyl, spice, and yes, even marijuana, it could have disastrous consequences. And that's when they become a police problem. That's when no mental health professional is going to approach them when they're in an agitated state of delirium slapboxing with city buses in their underwear and wearing red socks. That's not going to happen. No matter what the rhetoric is today, they're going to call us first. Because what do you do when it's not just paranoia?

What do you do when there's a chemical buffer between you and the crisis? And that was the issue. So there were so many mentally ill individuals who lost their lives in Skid Row. Some I ended up developing relationships with. One named Linda, her nickname was the Hurricane. She saw me as her little brother and I was her protector. And I remember I discovered she wasn't homeless because her family would come from Pacoima and pick her up and try to clean her up. And one day my wife and I are driving to a party and this big ugly van pulls up next to us and she sticks her head out the window, wig flies off, false teeth comes out, drool hits the window. Hey, Robocop.

Hey, big brother, it's me. Because my wife never believed my story, but she was a believer that day. And it was Linda. She had been picked up by her family and they tried to love her back to health, but she would often escape because of her addiction.

Dual diagnosis. OK, another friend of mine, he was from the LGBTQ community and he was often bullied because he would wear Daisy Dukes. But I liked the guy. He was a cool cat. But of course, when he was a high, he was it was like a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Heineffect. And I'll never forget, he was bullied by the gangsters in the park and they bloodied his lip. And of course, he was too afraid to fight them. So he comes around the corner and his mental his crisis kicks in and he wants to fight me.

And I said, hey, it's me, Ricky, it's me. You don't want these kind of problems. OK, you don't want these hands, Rick. So calm down. And he would try to calm down. And then he walked away from me and tried to take his aggressions out on a pregnant woman.

And I grabbed him before he could harm her, wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. I thought for sure they're going to place this guy on a hold for sure. It's going to be more than seventy two hours for sure. It's going to be about two weeks.

Nope. He was out in about six hours, if I remember correctly. And a month later, he finally decided to stand up for himself when a parolee came in and the parolee started attacking him because of the clothes he was wearing and the parolee stabbed him in the heart.

He was in a hospital for about six weeks before he finally passed away. And I always ask these questions to the public, you know, because they always want to blame us when things fall apart. Whose fault is it? Was it our fault or was it the system?

It was a system because the way the system is set up, the law enforcement is always going to be the tip of the spear until we actually change the mental health system and bring some common sense mechanisms back in place. Like, for instance, instead of three days, seventy two hours, it should be six weeks. And the reason why is it takes about four to six weeks for most of their medication for them to even benefit from the therapeutic attributes of their medication. That's common sense.

So don't release them until that six weeks is up. So they'll be in a habit of taking their medication. Also during that six weeks, you know, you have to clean them up before you can help them because a lot of them do what's called cleaning up. They'll go to the hospital. Six hours later, they'll say, hey, how are you feeling?

Oh, I'm fine. Why are they saying that? Because they want to go out there and scratch their chemical itch, right? Instead, get them clean first. Once you got them clean, develop a rapport with them and find out who their family members and loved ones are and see if we can get them connected. And that's streamline the process of conservatorships so that we can get their family members to help them and just help them guide them a little better. And even if that doesn't happen, they'll be in a habit of taking their medication and they won't fall off the wagon as long.

But until that happens, we're going to continue to see the countless tragedies that I've seen every day. It's near and dear to my heart because I have a niece who's mentally ill. I have a nephew who's touched with a little mental illness. I watched foster kids who were really struggling with it. And I even mentor young men on the spectrum of autism.

I think about once or twice a year when I can. And it's near and dear to my heart. And I just wish somebody would listen to this street cop. I don't have a dog in the fight. I'm not political. I just want to tell you the truth from a boots on the ground perspective.

I'm not looking at it from 30,000 feet. I'm not some college professor who's overly idealistic, who only sees one way. You know, I just want to tell you the truth of what's happening in the street.

And a terrific job on the editing, producing and story editing by our own Greg Hengler and a special thanks to Deon Joseph for sharing his story. And we all know the problems of mental health. And it is indeed one third to one half of the homeless problem in this country, is mental illness. And we don't have answers. And if in any way our stories can lead to those answers, well, then we have helped do something good for all of us, for all of our families and for those most harmed.

And that's the mentally ill who aren't properly treated and end up on the streets. Deon Joseph's story. And in so many ways, the story of cops across this country who deal with the things that we don't want to deal with here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country.

Stories from our big cities and small towns. But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-23 14:41:30 / 2023-10-23 14:46:59 / 5

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