Blaming the cops just feels right E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

The media loves a good mass shooting like Elliot Rodger’s recent killing spree. Not only does it guarantee ratings- it’s also opportunity to blame police officers for our national mental health treatment crisis. Consider this opening line from an article posted by ABC News: “In the weeks and months leading to Friday's killing spree in Santa Barbara, local law enforcement confirmed they had interacted with the alleged killer multiple times. The news that police had spoken with Elliot Rodger before his alleged killing spree, which injured 13 and killed seven including Rodger, has drawn attention to how police officers are being called to act in mental health matters.”

What the writer of the article is doing in the second sentence is called “muddying the waters,” in the news biz. That’s a commonly used technique when you don’t want to say “it’s the cops’ fault,” and “it’s not the cops fault,” at the same time.

The Monday Morning Quarterbacks that descend like locusts after these mindless rampages of spectacular violence also play a role as far as keeping things unclear.

Feminists say the shooter was a misogynistic woman hater. Conservatives blame liberals and the breakdown of the family. And of course there are the misleading headlines like, “Cops spoke to shooter three times before rampage but failed to see signs.”

These are the folks that use tragedy to push agendas and increase "page views" as a traumatized America looks for some explanation- anything that can help us understand what happened and why.

But no explanation is forthcoming. There has not and never will be an easy way to analyze, deconstruct and understand mass murder at Columbine, Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech.

In contrast, what is very easy to explain is the phenomenon where cops wind up getting the blame for stuff they have nothing to do with.

“Why didn’t the cops see this kid was dangerous and do something,” people will ask.

In an interview on ABC News' "This Week," former FBI agent Brad Garett had the right answer.

"At an alarming rate law enforcement are being asked to be law enforcers and psychiatric social workers," Garrett told ABC News. "When they are given a set of facts, they take them and they look at the individual…He was articulate, bright, lucid, not typically what they deal with day in and day out with people who have mental health issues."

"Once he becomes an adult, he [has] the ability to acquire firearms, to have all of these very, very dark thoughts," Garett told ABC. "Until he takes some action and law enforcement knows in advance that he's about to take this action, there's very little they can do."

There is a massive mental health crisis in America today.

Killers like Adam Lanza and Elliott Rodger are part of that crisis.

We made an enormous mistake when we radically reduced the availability of access to mental health care over the last 30 years.

And because pills are far more profitable than old-fashioned talk-therapy we have tried to medicate our way out of this crisis with expensive and unproven drugs.

And as technology increasingly takes the place of pre-internet, face to face social interaction, kids that are likely to slip through the cracks until the gunfire erupts are likely to slip much further and a lot faster.

The idea that police officers, no matter how experienced and talented they might be, can know or predict that a well-spoken young man with no criminal record is about to blow is ludicrous. In some cases involving mass-murder, not even the shooter’s psychiatrist can see red flags indicating impending violence.

But not only are these complicated issues, they also fail to provide us with someone to blame- at least partially.

And that’s why “police failed to prevent shooting,” headlines will always be good for ratings.

It’s easy.


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