Easton Police Shooting During Mental Health Checkup: Still No Responses – The Boston Globe

Easton Police Shooting During Mental Health Checkup: Still No Responses - The Boston Globe

It is a tactical piece of equipment that looks like a small tank that could be used to advance on enemy troops. Somehow, it became part of the law enforcement response to a welfare check on Marianne Griffiths, 56, who was shot and killed by Easton Police in February after she allegedly pulled a BB-style gun at them. rifle.

According to Easton Police Chief Keith Boone, the tank-like piece of equipment was brought to the scene to break down the front door to allow entry. The equipment, he said, belongs to the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council or MetroLEC, which, according to its website, is a consortium of 46 local police and sheriff departments whose members receive specialized training and equipment. Of the nine divisions listed, however, none are specifically about mental health.

The Griffiths shooting is still being investigated by Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III. Asked for an update, Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the Bristol District Attorney, said via email: The investigation is nearing its conclusion. When it’s finally finished, it should explain how a welfare check generated such a military response, with one Easton resident describing dozens of police vehicles along the area and many officers armed with automatic weapons and sporting tactical gear walking the streets. streets.

According to Boone, MetroLEC was called to respond to what he described as an armed barricaded subject. The tank-like equipment, he said, is a vehicle that Metro Team has and is used to approach buildings/structures when there is a security concern and can be used to break down doors so that one or more agents are not in a vulnerable position.

But what about the vulnerability of the person with mental illness? How might such tactics and equipment trigger their anxiety, potentially leading to the tragic aftermath of the Griffiths case? Michelle Goodwin, a MetroLEC spokeswoman, relayed my questions about the agency’s response to the community that received assistance and did not respond to a specific question about the use of this equipment.

Globe reporters Dugan Arnett and Laura Crimaldi recently detailed other cases in Massachusetts where a relative or loved one called 911 seeking help for someone in the midst of a mental health crisis. The police arrive and the situation worsens and becomes deadly. One version of this happened in Easton.

Easton Police said it responded to a call requesting a welfare check on a woman who told her son she injected herself with a dangerous amount of insulin in an attempt to kill herself. Griffiths, who was grieving the recent loss of a child, threatened to shoot them and herself, according to a press release issued by the district attorney at the time, when police arrived. The officers evacuated the other people in the house and left the residence. At that point, Griffiths reportedly ran back upstairs, approached the front entrance to the house, and aimed what appeared to be a shotgun at the officers. An Easton Police officer fired one shot, which killed her. Griffiths pistol had turned out to be a pump action BB pistol.

A father, who has an adult daughter with a mental illness who lives in Easton, told me that one of his biggest fears is that one day he will get a call telling him his son was shot by police in response to a call made to them by someone concerned about their behavior.

This father’s fears have taken on a new urgency after the police shoot Griffiths. The father, who asked not to be identified, contacted Boone, who addressed Boone’s concerns. He said Boone met with him and took time to explain how his officers deal with mental health situations. Easton Police also showed care and understanding during previous interactions with his daughter, the father said. However, given the outcome of the Griffiths case, this father is not satisfied. The story is that this could happen anywhere until there is a process in place to increase the likelihood that a person will not die needlessly, he told me.

Boone also said via email that in 2018, the Easton Police Department received training on the One Mind campaign. According to information released by the International Association of Police Chiefs, the One Mind campaign focuses on uniting local communities, public safety organizations and mental health organizations so that the three become one mind. Calling another law enforcement agency using military-grade tactical equipment seems at odds with what the One Mind program promotes.

What training does the Easton Police receive? How should it shape their response to people suffering from mental illness? When the police interact with a person with a mental illness and the encounter ends in that person’s death, the family, of course, deserves answers. So does the public.

Joan Vennochi is a columnist for the Globe. She can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.

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