This is going to be a very atypical post for Rhoades to Madness, folks. What follows is the story of what happened yesterday when I went to visit my parents in Raytown, Missouri. Some backstory first, hard facts of the incident next, then I’ll get into opinion.
My parents’ next-door neighbor has been crazy for nearly 20 years. And not “mows her lawn at midnight” crazy, but “takes off her clothes and runs around the neighborhood screaming until the cops pick her up” crazy. The Raytown police have had to do this at least five times, and possibly more. She’s all right as long as she’s on her medication, but she never stays on it for long. She has help from an older, apparently very mild-mannered male friend, but even he can’t keep her under control sometimes.
The Events of Tuesday
The first sign of something amiss was a police car parked on the two-lane street in front of my parents’ house. It had its hazard lights on, but did not have the blue-and-red flashers on. No one was inside. As we began to speculate about it, we looked over to the aforementioned neighbor’s yard and saw four uniformed policemen in front of her house. Three were armed with fully-automatic weapons. The fourth was carrying a shotgun.
In short order, we watched as they escorted the clearly-raving neighbor off of the property and further down the street, where another police car was parked with its flashers on. Traffic was still being allowed through, however.
The guns then pointed back at the house, and a fifth policeman with an automatic rifle arrived in an unmarked SUV. Eventually, the male friend was coaxed from the building at gunpoint, hands raised. He was put on his stomach in the ditch, one policeman cuffing him as another pointed his automatic at him.
For the next fifteen to twenty minutes, policemen filed in and out of the scene, sometimes casually, sometimes with guns up and ready to fire. A plainclothes detective appeared, and talked to the group. Eventually, the crazy female neighbor was allowed back into the home, still raving and clearly unbalanced. Her friend was uncuffed and allowed back into the house a few moments later.
After a few minutes of discussion, the police packed up their gear and left the scene.
I’ll admit to not knowing a great deal about police procedures or training. I do, however, have common sense, which seems to have been sorely lacking in this situation.
First of all, I can only assume that our dear neighbor, in a fit of paranoia, believed that her helpful friend was threatening her life and called the police. It’s the only reasonable explanation for how the police responded and how the incident played out and resolved.
What I don’t understand is the dangerously disproportionate and inconsistent way in which the police responded. Their own long history with this woman should have informed them that the threat was likely nowhere near as dire as their giant weapons would indicate. And their own resolution to the incident – both parties released – tells us that the “danger” was entirely fabricated. Now, I’m not saying that they should not have exercised caution, but I feel there is a wide gulf between “sidearm caution” and “machine gun caution.”
And then, the painfully obvious kicker: If the situation actually called for the deployment of automatic weapons, why were the neighbors not warned, and why was traffic allowed to pass through? If the police themselves felt so threatened that they needed to bring out their very biggest guns, why were the very people they are supposed to be protecting left in the dark and allowed to remain in harm’s way?
Being on the force is rough, I know. You go into all sorts of bizarre situations that it’s hard to know exactly how to handle. Throw a mentally unstable person into the mix and it becomes damn near impossible, I’d imagine. But even putting aside the fact that they should know what to expect from this woman, their reaction followed no apparent protocol and would have endangered more people than it protected had things gone south. If this is how the Raytown police are trained, then they are trained poorly.