Officer Ocean encountered an individual who seemed to be hallucinating. With his arms flailing, the man paced and circled the sidewalk immediately in front of an elementary school mumbling indistinguishable words. Parents escorting their children to school were deeply concerned and working hard to avoid interaction with the man. All of this summoned Officer Ocean.
When Officer Ocean arrived on scene, he immediately recognized the individual (Mr. Doe) from previous encounters. He calmly approached the confused Mr. Doe and introducing himself and said, “You know me, I’m your friend.” Officer Ocean continued his conversation with Mr. Doe using gentle, reassuring words and tones, reminding Mr. Doe he was there to help.
Officer Ocean asked how Mr. Doe was feeling and if he had taken his medication on schedule. Mr. Doe answered what is commonly heard by our law enforcement, “I’m not taking my medicines right now. When I take them I feel bad, so sometimes…” he hesitated, “I don’t take them.”
Officer Ocean asked Mr. Doe what he was having trouble with this morning and why he stopped in front of the school. Mr. Doe paused his movements momentarily but did not reply. Having observed an area of fresh dirt in front of the school where the landscaping had been torn out to make way for some new shrubs, Officer Ocean decided to go with a direct approach. “Is it your fear of dirt that has you stopped here in front of the school today?
The man looked cautiously upward through his dark eyebrows at Officer Ocean and confessed, “Yes, I don’t like that,” pointing at the dirt in the planter area. Without prying into the origin of his phobia, Officer Ocean offered to give Mr. Doe a ride, but the invitation was declined.
Officer Ocean offered an alternate resolution – he suggested the man carefully step off the sidewalk and into the curb line, walk about 15 feet, which would get him past the dirt, and then get back on the sidewalk. The simple solution was well received, and off he went. Problem solved.
Fast-forward five hours. In the same general area of the city, units were sent to investigate someone walking in the middle of the roadway. The caller stated a man was walking on the double yellow line of a four-lane road. The man kept stepping into the traffic, would get honked at, quickly re-direct his steps onto the yellow lines, only to attempt crossing again every few seconds. It was obviously a very dangerous situation that needed immediate attention.
Officer Ocean had a hunch that this might be his friend Mr. Doe from earlier in the day, so he asked to be added as a responder to the call and headed toward the area.
There he was, Mr. Doe, safely on the sidewalk. When asked why he had been in the middle of the road, Mr. Doe said he needed to be there because he didn’t want to be near Monster Street, because he doesn’t like monsters. The name of the street is Monserate, but the words were apparently similar enough in his mind to trigger overwhelming thoughts he couldn’t navigate without putting himself in the middle of the roadway.
When questioned further, Mr. Doe said he was in the middle of the road walking on the yellow lines because “I know it’s safe there. As long as I stay on the yellow lines no, cars can hit me.”
In this case, Officer Ocean determined Mr. Doe needed psychiatric attention, because he was unable to care for himself and was placing himself in danger with his actions. Mr. Doe’s safety was the priority and responsibility of Officer Ocean, so he provided transportation to a care facility for Mr. Doe’s further evaluation of his psychosis and more than likely renewed attempts at medication.
This story illustrates a very common problem our law enforcement confront daily – mental illness. These types of interaction require compassion, patience, and understanding. To engage individuals during these episodes is also dangerous – they don’t all go quite as smoothly as this one. Nevertheless, police officers always work to give their best to aide others.
The next time you see a cop, smile and say hello, and say a silent prayer for the variety of people they will encounter. Lord, give them wisdom to serve others in need who are knowingly or unknowingly endangering themselves or others.