Saving Future Barbara Schneiders
Barbara Schneider was not a criminal trying to avoid judgment and jail by attacking cops; she was a sick woman plagued by demons that most of us can't even imagine.
This is one of the reasons why many people in Minneapolis were appalled by the officer-involved shooting that claimed her life. It's also why the officers involved in the incident had such a hard time coping with it.
Since the Barbara Schneider shooting, the Minneapolis Police Department has changed its procedures for responding to incidents involving emotionally disturbed persons in hopes of saving the lives of violently mentally ill subjects like Barbara Schneider.
"One of the biggest things was we went to Memphis and picked up a C.I.T. (crisis intervention team) program and implemented it," says Sgt. Bill Palmer. "We keep 150 officers trained in the crisis intervention team model. Every officer on the department has also had at least an awareness level module on mental health response."
Minneapolis PD C.I.T. officers are used to try to de-escalate situations-not only mental health emergency response. The department has also invested heavily in less-lethal weapon options, which it didn't have in 2000.
"When we first brought C.I.T. to Minneapolis, the C.I.T. officers were the only ones with TASERs, but now we rely on our technology heavily," Palmer says.
Palmer notes that one of the biggest keys to the success of the department's C.I.T. lies in how it selects its members.
"We don't take just anybody who wants to be a C.I.T. officer. We pick officers who we think will do well in the program and who will spend the time they need to spend and try to work with people to calm them down and get them the help they need," he explains.
At the same time, the department remains realistic about the prospect for deadly force in dealing with the mentally ill and has increased sensitivity for officers who may find themselves having to deploy it.
The tragic death of Barbara Schneider also spurred the establishment of the Barbara Schneider Foundation, an organization that works with law enforcement and medical personnel in Minnesota. Law enforcement officers can learn more about this organization and its resources at www.thebarbaraschneiderfoundation.org.