Anecdotal evidence suggests violent attacks on police officers by mentally unstable people have been increasing over the past decade, said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 330,000 law-enforcement officers. Definitive data is scarce, in part because mental-health records are restricted by federal regulations and state laws. ...The Oct. 14 Dallas episode would have been portrayed as just another statistic to plug into the following graphic if it weren't for home surveillance footage capturing the event:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps track of instances of "justifiable homicide," which it defines as "the killing of a felon by a law-enforcement officer in the line of duty," but it doesn't note which of those involve mental illness. While crime rates nationally have fallen almost every year since the late 1990s, justifiable homicides by police officers have risen, from 297 in 2000 to 410 in 2012.
Hidden within that category is what is known informally as "suicide by cop," when a person intentionally provokes an officer into using lethal force. Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, in Washington, D.C., which researches law-enforcement issues, said he believes this type of suicide is increasing in frequency.
The case in Dallas shows that "justifiable" is often in the eye of the beholder. If there hadn't been video, Grits has little doubt the shooting would have been dismissed by the media and police brass as another "isolated incident," with local officials and the police union piously blaming the victim in the press. Grits has maintained the instance provides a strong argument for departments requiring officers to wear body cams they cannot disable to prevent or defuse those sorts of he-said she-said conflicts. The mother of the Dallas victim told the Morning News she:
wants officers to wear cameras on their uniforms from now on.
Brown, who offered apologies to [the victim's family] at the news conference, said he would consider uniform video cameras, which he called “the future of law enforcement.”
But for now, Jackson said she is afraid to call the police. She said she is fortunate there was a video.
“Other citizens — they have no leg to stand on unless they’ve got a video,” she said.She's got a point. The Dallas case, - as well as the WSJ story, which is full of tragic anecdotes - serves as a cautionary tale for people with mentally ill family members. Folks may be less likely to call for help when mentally ill family members become out of control if they think, as in Dallas, their son, daughter, sibling, etc., may be shot on sight.