Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come for You Granny?"

Ladies and gentlemen, the Sun-Times story you are about to read is true.

Only the names have been concealed to protect the Office of Professional Standards and the Chicago Police Department
The officers were responding to a request from the city's Department of Aging.

Apparently, the department had received an anonymous tip that Lillian Fletcher, who has a history of mental illness, was home alone and in need of assistance.

When Fletcher refused to open her door, police were called. Although Fletcher cracked the door, she still refused to let her visitors into the house.

But police officers wouldn't take no for an answer and pushed their way in. Fletcher ran and got the hammer she keeps beside her bed.

"My grandmother is easily confused," her granddaughter, Traci Taylor, said Monday. "She probably didn't know what was going on." ***

"She can be belligerent," Taylor said. But she's 82 years old, 5 feet 1 inch and weighs no more than 160 pounds, she added.

"I just don't think they should be Tasing 82-year-old women. That's ridiculous."

Reportedly swinging a hammer

According to a police source, when officers arrived, Fletcher was "swinging a hammer" and becoming "increasingly violent."

When Fletcher failed to stop as ordered, an officer discharged a Taser. Also, it's worth noting that Fletcher hasn't been charged with violating any laws.

"The matter is being looked into by the Office of Professional Standards, and the Chicago Police Department will also be reviewing the matter to determine if procedures were followed," a police spokesman said.

[The Alias Kid noted: If there is any doubt as to whether or not proper procedure starts with a wellness check and ends with Tasing an 82 year-old woman, the Chicago Police Department's "procedures" just might be a source of the problem.]
After Tasing Fletcher, officers took her to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where she was treated. Her family is concerned Fletcher may have suffered a stroke. Citing privacy laws, a hospital spokesman declined comment. ***

Fletcher was released five days later, but she is still complaining about her hip and a burn on her abdomen. Doctors told Fletcher's family that she should be seen by a neurologist because she has fluid on her brain and may have to undergo surgery.
Grandma Fletcher probably won't die as a result of this police misconduct. But others will.

Even if it's only because caring and concerned Chicagoans will now hesitate -- quite understandably -- before calling the
City of Chicago's 311 number to request a wellness check on their frail and elderly neighbors.

Bad cops make bad neighbors.


Don said...

Completely off-topic: I only know you from the occasional mentions by Eric Zorn. How strange to find your name attached to a comment at Ces's blog. The bizarre interconnectedness of it all is a little freaky.

OneMan said...

Ok I am game, what should they have done?

A) Waited until she perhaps tired herself out. With the risk she could have hurt her self with that thing.

B) Just left?

C) Since she might have been a threat to her self with the hammer just lunged at her to get the hammer away from her?

I don't see a ton of options here that don't put either the officers safety or her safety at risk.

She didn't harm herself, she didn't harm the officers

For a different perspective on this...


JakeCP said...

It's sad that our Chicago Police felt so threatened by an 82 year old woman swinging a hammer that they had to taser her. What has become of our police officers? What is this world coming to? What would they have done if they shock from the taser actually killed the woman? I swear the CPD needs some serious reform.

nursey boy said...

I think the Chicago PD maybe on to something. Early use of electric shock to defibralate a heart has been the most important improvement in CPR . thats why cops have AEDs in there cars.
they were just premptively shocking her, in case she was about to have a heart attack.

Anonymous said...

Remember the days before tazers when a cop would have been able to keep an 82 year old from hitting them with a hammer with their bare hands. Oh, wait, she's black, they would have more likely just shot her.

So-Called Austin Mayor said...


"Ok I am game, what should they have done?

A) Waited until she perhaps tired herself out. With the risk she could have hurt her self with that thing."

Yes. People have the right to safety and security within their homes. The police forced their way into her home and only then did she wield her "weapon". My grandma is just one of thousands of elderly women who have been left alone -- for days at a time in a home with a hammer -- and no one got hurt.

"B) Just left?"

Yes. It was a hammer. They forced their way into her home. There was no reason for the police to enter, much less for them to stay, much less for them to attack an old lady.

"C) Since she might have been a threat to her self with the hammer just lunged at her to get the hammer away from her?"

No. I refuse to accept your premise that "might have been a threat to herself" is a legitimate standard for any violence on the part of the police. There was no indication that she was a threat to herself, merely the possibility of such. I refuse to accept such a standard for violent intervention by the police.

"I don't see a ton of options here that don't put either the officers safety or her safety at risk."

The life of free people in a free society involves a certain amount of risk. It certainly involves more risk than that posed by an old woman with a hammer in her own home.

If those officers were actually afraid of the old woman with a hammer such that they actually believed that the use of violence was necessary to protect themselves, they are simply cowards -- COWARDS -- and should find a line of work more in line with their delicate natures.

"She didn't harm herself, she didn't harm the officers"

You're right. Instead she was unnecessarily harmed by the officers.

In her own home.

When she had committed no crime.

I can't imagine how anyone could possibly see this as acceptable.


OneMan said...

So if they just left and responded to the wellness check with 'She is yelling and swinging a hammer' that would have been ok? You really think her family would have been ok with that?

Secondly, yes a woman with a history of mental illness wildly swinging a hammer is in fact a risk to herself.

Thanks to lawsuits and the standards of our communities we don't let 'well she is only a risk to herself' slide, do I agree with this, no. But that is the world we live in now.

Assuming officer X did try and just grab it from her and he did get injured (lets say a broken hand) do you think the city would have just said 'That's part of the job' or would the officer had gotten in trouble for putting himself at unneeded risk?

What if the officer was a female about the same size and weight as grandma, do you expect her to do the same?

Do I think that tasing was the best option. No. Do I think is was the evil Chicago police department just being themselves like the reporter is indicating, no.

I think it was officers responding the best way they knew how to a dynamic situation. This sort of stuff is easy to Monday morning QB on. It's different when someone is acting crazy in front of you with a hammer.

You may not like the response of the officers, thats understandable. But I think you have to admit figuring out how you would respond when it is not happening in front of you in real time is much easier.


pathickey said...

Ask Officer Jim Mullin - his quality of life was suspended by a 'disoriented senior citizen.'

So-Called Austin Mayor said...

The police forced their way into a home without legal justification, i.e. with out a warrant or probable cause.

And then they shot an old woman with a taser.

That is unacceptable.




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