We all see frequent stories about police calls for service that end badly, so I wanted to share some incidents with you that will never make the news. The three calls outlined here all happened in Santa Rosa within a 24 hour period last week, and are typical of the work done by the men and women of your police department.
On Tuesday evening last week, a Santa Rosa couple needed to call 911 for help with their adult son, who was having an emotional crisis and “out of control” inside their house.
As officers got to the house, both parents were standing outside and were visibly upset. Officers learned that the couple’s son was inside and was possibly armed with a knife. The son had come home and told his parents that he had been in an argument with a neighbor, claiming he had slashed the tires on the neighbor’s car and broken a window. He said the neighbor had armed himself with a gun and chased him home. The son was highly agitated and his parents thought he was delusional and under the influence of alcohol. Officers also learned that man had a recent history of mental health issues. His parents were worried that he may harm himself or others if he was left alone or allowed to leave.
Officers initially went to the front door to talk to the son, who was alone in his parents’ house. He was clearly agitated and told the officers to leave or he would kill them. It was clear to the officers that the man was extremely upset, intoxicated, and potentially violent. Before the officers had a chance to speak with him, he walked down a hallway and essentially barricaded himself inside the residence. Due to his volatile state, officers surrounded the residence and tried to talk with him through the front door.
Officer Ken Carstensen and his trainee heard the call on the radio and drove to the scene. Ken was the only on-duty member of the Hostage Negotiation Team at the time. When Ken arrived he spoke with the man’s parents about the events that led up to the incident that night, as well as their son’s mental health and emotional state.
Ken directed officers on the perimeter to remain silent while he called the man on the phone. Ken got no response, so he continued calling until the man finally answered. Ken spoke with the distraught man calmly even when the man could be heard yelling on the other end of the line. He refused to come outside to the officers, but Ken was able to eventually develop a rapport with him. Over the better part of an hour, Ken calmed the man until he came outside and officers detained him safely and without any use of force so he could receive appropriate medical and mental health treatment. Other officers also spoke to the neighbor to investigate whether the man had vandalized the neighbor’s car.
On my way to work the next morning I listened to two other potentially volatile calls on the radio. The first was for a man calling about his wife. She had a history of mental health issues and was also a methamphetamine user. She was hallucinating and the man needed help with her. The other call was at a local elementary school for a 9 year old boy who was a high-risk student. The boy was threatening school staff with scissors and making stabbing motions at them. In both those cases our dispatchers and officers worked together to resolve the incidents peacefully and ensure that the people involved got the help they needed.
As I said earlier, these incidents are fairly typical of the more than 126,000 calls for service that the Santa Rosa Police Department handled in 2015. Next time, I’ll talk about our activity during 2015 and provide statistics on our arrests, citations, uses of force, etc.
Thanks for reading,
- Captain Craig Schwartz