“God Winks:” A Baltimore Police Officer’s Loving Gift

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(3-6-15 This is the first of three letters that I wish to share with readers while I am mourning the death of my father and carrying out his final wishes for his funeral. This letter is from Laura Pogliano, whose advocacy I mentioned in an earlier blog.) 

Hi Pete,

I started to write a reply to you, to thank you for the kind words in your Friday blog about my son, Zac, and my advocacy, but didn’t finish. When I got home from work, I realized why. Hanging on my door knob was a gift from Officer Kim Lankford of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Let me tell you a bit about Officer Lankford. You might recall that Zac decided at one point that he had been shot in the head. He hadn’t but he was convinced because of schizophrenia that he had. I wrote a blog for you about how Officer Lankford had treated my son with respect and had spent time comforting him. Later, it was Officer Lankford who did the welfare check at his apartment when I was concerned and the one who found him deceased and broke the news to me.

I want to tell you about the gift she left on my door knob.

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500,000 Miles and Counting: Coming Home From Baton Rouge — How I Keep From Being Discouraged

(3-2-2015) While flying home Friday from Louisiana, I reached a milestone. Somewhere above Tennessee, I crossed the half-million mile mark in jet travel and, yes, all of those miles were accumulated because of trips that I made to give speeches about the need for mental health reform.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation offered to re-schedule my Thursday night appearance because of my father’s death two days earlier. But I knew that the Foundation’s Patricia Calfee had spent months making arrangements for my speech and I also felt that focusing on something besides grieving for my father might be helpful. I also knew that if my dad had been alive, he would have insisted that I go. He was not one to break a promise. (I’ve posted links at the end of this blog about my Louisiana speech.)

It’s been eight years since I gave a first hand account in my book about how jails and prisons have become our new mental asylums. Sadly, there’s not been a drop in incarceration rates for persons with mental illnesses. Instead the number is growing.

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Thank You To My Father: Elmer N. Earley Jr. R.I.P.

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November 1920 to February 24, 2015

Minister, devoted husband, wise father, loyal friend

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”

                                                                                                                                                           — Jim Valvano

I’m grateful my dad had 94 years, but selfishly yearn for another day more.

RIP

Natasha McKenna Case Exposes Flaws In How Someone In Crisis Is Treated: It’s Bigger Than Jail

Treatment Not Incarceration

Treatment Not Incarceration

2-23-15  The Washington Post editorial board joined me Saturday in criticizing the Fairfax County police and sheriff’s department for releasing a press statement that raised more questions than it answered about the death of Natasha McKenna, a 37 year-old African American woman with schizophrenia who suffered cardiac arrest after being shot repeatedly by deputies with a taser while in custody. (Read the Post editorial here.)

Sharon Bulova, the chair of the Board of Supervisors, which oversees the jail, police department and mental health services,  announced she will create a special commission to review law enforcement’s adherence to transparency. This comes after the police were accused of engaging in a cover-up about the police shooting of an unarmed man named John Geer. It was Tom Jackman, a reporter at The Washington Post, whose relentless reporting exposed how the police were trying to hide information behind legal maneuvers.

The McKenna investigation should be turned over to an independent investigator not tied to either the police or sheriff’s department. How can the police be trusted when they joined the sheriff’s office in releasing a shill of a press statement last week?

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Fairfax Officials Fail To Disclose Key Facts About Taser Death: Skip Over Details About Natasha McKenna’s Final Days

Natasha McKenna: Police Mugshot

Natasha McKenna: Police Mugshot

Natasha McKenna, a 37 year-old African American woman with schizophrenia, was struck multiple times in the head by a sheriff’s deputy during an altercation in the jail on January 31st.

I first reported this disturbing fact in a blog on February 10th that I wrote to alert the Washington media that McKenna had been tasered more than four times in jail causing her to experience cardiac arrest.

The Fairfax Police Department and Sheriff’s Department issued a press release yesterday about McKenna. They acknowledged in that statement that McKenna “assaulted” a deputy on January 31st.

But the statement did not provide any details of that “assault,” nor did it acknowledge that during that confrontation a deputy struck McKenna multiple times on her head, even though the deputy followed standard jail procedures and wrote an incident report that described the altercation.

Why didn’t the police and sheriff’s office release a copy of that report? Why haven’t they admitted that a deputy struck McKenna?

This was not the only omission in the joint press release.

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Preaching The Importance of Jail Diversion & A Step Forward At Home

Three minute KSL interview in Salt Lake City about Utah

2-16-15) I’m often interviewed when I travel and when that happens, I always talk about the importance of Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement, problem solving courts and re-entry programs that help persons with mental illnesses receive much needed services after they are discharged from jails or prisons.  Candice Madsen, a reporter for KLS in Utah, divided her interview with me into a local news report and one shown nationally — primarily to members of the Mormon faith.

Three minute national Deseret News interview

Last Thursday (2-12-15), Fairfax County, Virginia, launched a special docket to help veterans. This is a major step where I live because the Virginia judiciary has been reluctant to create much-needed problem solving courts. The credit goes to Judge Penney S. Azcarate who served in our military and was able to rally support from her fellow veterans.

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