Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wellness Check on Steroids

I don't know whether any of you got the news about the 82 year old woman who was tasered by the cops here in Chicago, but when I tell you she was taken down by police officers on a mission to do a wellness check, you can no doubt understand my interest.

Apparently a city agency went to her house to check up on her. It sounds like a family member might have been worried and/or too lazy to do it themselves. The folks who showed up on her doorstep could see her through her front window brandishing a hammer in a threatening manner. At this point, I would have simply checked the box marked YES she is alive and left. Clearly if she could wield a hammer standing in the window, she wasn't incapacitated or in need of emergency help.

Perhaps she felt the hammer would emphasize that she wanted them to go away. Perhaps she just didn't want to let them in her house because she didn't know who they were and frankly wasn't in the mood for company.

The people from the agency didn't go away because they are bureaucrats. They called the cops. The cops arrived to help. They didn't bring a warrant I might point out. At this point, I guess the lady answered the door for the cops who then forced their way in. In fact they admitted that they forced their way in.

Did I mention that NOBODY HAD A WARRANT? And this intrusion was supposedly about a wellness check?

Needless to say, said 82 year old lady was afraid for her life so she started swinging her hammer another time to protect herself, which scared the cops, who blasted her with a taser.

There was one phrase in the story that supposedly justified all this asinine treatment of a poor old woman -- she apparently has a history of schizophrenia. As if you have to be schizophrenic to not want the cops or strangers to come into your house.

Time to call the ACLU. Old people have rights too. So do old people who are considered crazy.

And yes, the new Office of Professional Standards is investigating.


thisismary said...

For the love of God (and for your own safety)! Do not ever again hang a painting on your walls using (gasp!) a nail and hammer!  Get those nice 3M (supposedly) removable plastic hangars.   Even the spineless weasles in your fair burg couldn't possibly feel threatened by stickum.  

Could they?

psychfun said...

Good God! This is like the 2nd time I heard of abuse to the elderly! Shit where was the negotiator even? I say the old lady gets to taser them back for punishment!!! I say they should get a sentence like Abuse of the Elderly! Actually, even with a history of Schizophrenia they are supposed to be trained on how to handle this even better! There was that mentally ill guy that the cops killed at a gas station if you remember. Again, how can they be afraid of an 82 yr old lady even with a hammer? Geez, you mean 4 cops can't take her down? They don't belong on the force then! What happened to good old fashion talking to someone. And they wonder if another elderly person later will not show up at the door with a hammer if the cops come? This certainly is not helping them.

screaminremo303 said...

"TWEEEET!!!" Fifteen-yard penalty for piling-on.

The Cops are the bad guys? We're the last one's in the daisy-chain of dysfunctional information exchange. Where's the family? Where''s the spineless adminicrat? I've been in this situation before at least seven times, mostly at the "request" of family or state agencies who want a "welfare check" done on someone. We're like a bad fart in church - once it shows up you can't make it go away.

Then there's this: Exigent circumstances. It's one of the situations where a warrantless entry into a residence is justified and usually comes into play where the secondary factors (Angry schizophrenic elderly woman with a hammer) quickly negate the original cause. She opened the door so that's moot. Rock beats scissors, or in this case, Taser beats hammer. I'm betting they went in because they simply didn't know what she was going to do or capable of. Either way, we're screwed no matter what we do.

Here's how my report would read:  "On date/time I arrived at the residence based on a call from XXX agency advising Mrs. TMB was schizophrenic and brandishing a hammer within her residence in an angry manner. I plainly viewed TMB through the windows of the residence as she initially refused to cooperate with officers present but eventually opened the door to allow us access. We entered the residence and TMB continued to act in an irrational and uncooperative manner, and she swung the hammer towards one of the officers present, presenting a real and grave danger to their personal safety. The officers did not fire their firearms, instead using a Taser instrument to temporarily incapacitate TMB and allow officers to control the dangerous instrument (hammer) and effectively manage their tasks without further injury to TMB or the officers present."

Like water for chocolate.

jevanslink said...


Eixgent circumstances means that the life of the person in the house is in IMMEDIATE danger. It does not give the cops or bureaucrats the right to cause the immediate danger.

The only llife-threatening danger to the woman was caused by the people who arrived to do the wellness check. Maybe she opened the door to confirm that she was fine, but didn't want anyone in her house. At that point the wellness check has been executed and any entry should require a warrant.  

What the cops did was an illegal search and seizure. We all have a right to feel safe from intrusion in our own homes.

And don't get me started on the fiction that the police inivent for their reports.

Mrs. L

screaminremo303 said...

EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES - Emergency conditions. 'Those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of a suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts.' United States v. McConney, 728 F.2d 1195, 1199 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 824 (1984).

Stand down, Colonel L.  I'm not of the opinion the Cops should have Taser'd Granny. I'm just saying they were covered by case law.

You're kinda hot when you get riled up.

jevanslink said...

Guess what -- your quote about exigent circumstances isn't about exigent circumstances. Entering a home under "Exigent circumstances" was an exception to the fourth amendment intended to give law enforcement the same privileges as firefighters who don't need a warrant to enter a burning house. It was meant to let cops help save the lives of citizens in IMMEDIATE danger inside their homes.

Your citation is about another subject -- warrantless entries to pursue a CRIMINAL. First of all, the old lady was NOT a criminal. She was innocent. Minding her own damn business. And became a VICTIM of law enforcement.  So if the jerkwads with a badge want to get into her house on a wellness check they'd better have a warrant unless they can PROVE there was an actual emergency happening to the occupant -- not them. And guess what, there wasn't.  

Also, there would have been no emergency situation for them either if they'd just stayed the hell out of her house. She had a right to protect herself when she felt threatened.

The warrantless entry that permits to cops to pursue creeps into their homes has been abused for wellness checks.  Now that this woman has been kind enough to get tasered, I've got a reason to get the ACLU off their butts and start doing something to protect the elderly from this crap.  

Mrs. L

salemslot9 said...

it's a good thing
that taser didn't give her
a freaking heart attack!

dafyddhevans said...

Yeah.  There's nothing quite so compelling as a 23-year-old Ninth Circuit decision .  Particularly when you're in another Circuit altogether and the decision has been overruled in part.  Really settles it for me.  More so because the quote your buddy cites comes in its entirety from the 'Lectric Law Library.  Or is that Libary?  

The facts of McConney were also slightly different.  There, the officer knew that the defendant named in an arrest warrant was a convicted felon, a drug dealer, and was charged with racketeering.  The defendant had once made a statement to the officer about the “protection” of members of club.  And the officer recognized the defendant as the officer observed the defendant through an inner screen door at the defendant's residence.  Under those circumstances, "exigent circumstances" existed according to the Ninth Circuit, excusing the officers' failure to await refusal of admittance before entering the home after they had knocked and announced their entry.  I don't think having an unnamed third-party calling in a wellness check quite amounts to the same circumstances as the defendant in McConney.  But then again, all we have are the facts in the paper summarized by Mrs L.  But why should the lack of evidence stop us from making up facts and drawing legal conclusions from them.

Although, tasering a little old lady, even a hammer-wielding one, sounds pretty outrageous.  I hope the cop's union has a good legal defense fund.

ber144 said...

Given the history of the CPD lately, she's lucky that all she got was tased. Were I cop in the city, I wouldn't use a fly-swatter about now.

Did she have dry cleaning hanging on her porch?