Some months back in August, parents of Lin Howe’s students received a note from CCUSD telling of an untoward incident that the children had been witness to. Naturally, the newly appointed principal of the school found herself bombarded with enquiries. What exactly had happened? What had the children seen?
To her credit, Principal Eva Carpenter provided a detailed response via email. Since the message was sent out to every Lin Howe parent, I have no hesitation reproducing it here:
I have gotten inquiries about the details of today’s events. There was a man who was believed to be mentally ill walking down the street in front of our school acting erratically. The police were called as he was also seen walking on to neighbors’ properties. The police came and tried to quell the situation but had to subdue him forcefully. Unfortunately some of our students saw what happened but were moved away from the area safely. The suspect was taken into custody without incident, staff members who witnessed the event gave their eyewitness statements. I am working closely with CCUSD Security Director, Superintendent Lockhart and the culver City Police to ensure we keep all students safe.
Note some key words and phrases here. The man was “mentally ill” and merely “walking down the street.” The individual, referred to as the “suspect” was “taken into custody.”
But being “mentally ill” isn’t a crime. Neither is walking down a public street. So, why was this person arrested? Why was he violently subdued when there were children watching?
Now Globe Avenue residents would never call about a “mentally ill” person simply “walking down the street.” There’s not much point calling about one of these individuals sitting on your property drinking from an open container, either.
Police dispatch—who will rush one of CCPD’s finest to your home if your cat’s stuck up a tree or your neighbor’s using his camera and the flash disturbs your afternoon nap—invariably ask: “But what’s he/she doing?”
In other words, what’s the crime?
You can be mentally ill. And you can walk down the streets. Well, all right, as long as you’re not endangering either yourself or others. At any event, one doesn’t expect such people to be arrested. One merely expects them to be confined in an appropriate asylum and to receive the treatment they so badly need.
Now we have called about the mentally ill when we’ve witnessed them accosting passersby or relentlessly following pedestrians, while shaking their fists and acting aggressive. We’ve seen and called about the mentally ill violently reaching out and trying to grab moms walking their babies, growling at and clearly scaring them.
We’ve called because it was the civic-minded thing to do.
Do the police come? No. After dispatch has finished arguing with you about whether you’re well and truly a Culver City resident, you’ll find out—as my husband and I did on one occasion—that your call was never even relayed to the police department.
(In case, you’re wondering, dispatch is outsourced to South Bay, which handles both non-emergency and 911 calls for Culver City and a couple of other cities.)
We’ve also called about mentally ill people blocking traffic, erratically crossing from one side to the other on Venice Boulevard—at risk of becoming yet another statistic in a hit-and-run. But Dispatch has again wondered whether CCPD had jurisdiction or LAPD. Ultimately, no one has been sent out.
The compassion the authorities supposedly feel for the “unhoused” doesn’t apparently extend to saving the lives of the mentally ill and the “unhoused” they profess to care for. Who knows, maybe it’s more compassionate to let them die!
Why is there one law for Police District 1—the Mayor’s neighborhood—and quite another for the rest of Culver City?
The Constitution guarantees equality under the law and equal treatment by the law. But Mayor Sahli-Wells and her council are doing everything they can to undermine those constitutional guarantees.