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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Cardall family to push for mental health training for all law enforcement

November 4, 2010
By Melinda Rogers, The Salt Lake Tribune

One son waited on a heart transplant and received a miracle as time was running out. The other died on the side of a southern Utah highway after police shocked him with a Taser as he suffered a bipolar episode they failed to recognize.

Two illnesses, two dramatically different outcomes.

Every day Duane Cardall ponders the two fates of his sons, musician Paul Cardall, who is thriving after undergoing a heart transplant to beat a congenital heart disease, and scientist Brian Cardall, whose tragic death on June 9, 2009, has spurred a statewide discussion on the level of training law enforcement receives on dealing with the mentally ill.

“Society has yet to come to grips with the reality of mental illness,” Duane Cardall said Thursday, speaking to a group of about 400 people gathered at the University of Utah student union for the annual National Alliance on Mental Health of Utah conference.

“There are mountains to climb before the stigma of mental illness is eliminated.”

Cardall wishes a Hurricane police officer who deployed a Taser on his 32-year-old son as a confused Brian tried to direct traffic while nude had chosen instead to respond with “a few kind words, a touch of compassion and a blanket to cover Brian’s nakedness.”

It’s why the director of editorials for KSL News and Radio is speaking out publicly about his son’s illness and death. He’s also working with NAMI of Utah to push for legislation that encourages all members of law enforcement to undergo a crisis-intervention training that research has found improves the outcomes of police officers’ encounters with the mentally ill.

The Cardall family and NAMI will work with state Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, to introduce legislation during the next session calling for initiatives to bring more education and training to law enforcement.

A draft of the legislation is still in the works, but Jones said she’d like to see more members of Utah law enforcement undergo a proven training sponsored since 2001 by the Salt Lake City police department known as the CIT Academy.

“That is the intent, to ensure that law enforcement officials do understand mental illness and how to handle it when they confront it,” Jones said.

Salt Lake City Detective Ron Bruno, who oversees the CIT Academy has previously said the Brian Cardall case appears to have motivated other police departments to enroll in the program. The Hurricane police department is among the agencies that started attending the CIT Academy after Cardall’s death.

About 12 percent of Utah’s 1,200 law enforcement officers hold a CIT certification, but more have likely undergone the training and since had their certifications expire, he said.

A recent study on CIT training unveiled last spring found that police officers who undergo CIT instruction are less likely to use force when handling a situation involving a mentally ill person. The study, published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin , surveyed 135 police officers from Atlanta about how they would handle three different scenarios involving mentally ill people. Forty-eight officers had received crisis-intervention team training, while 87 had not received the training.

Researchers discovered officers who underwent CIT training chose to use less force in the third scenario presented to them. Eight available options in the third scenario, the most escalated of the three, ranged from talking through the situation to using force, such as a baton.

Sherri Wittwer, executive director for NAMI of Utah, said CIT training and legislation that could mandate more police officers to undergo it, is a step to fostering a better understanding of how to interact with the mentally ill.

“We want as many officers as possible to go through the training,” she said. “CIT is shown to reduce officer injury, improve safety and be more cost effective. There’s great interest in seeing this program be successful.”

The Cardall lawsuit

The family of Brian Cardall has filed a federal lawsuit against two Hurricane police officers involved in the deployment of a Taser on the 32-year-old man as he suffered a bipolar episode on the side of State Road 59 near Hurricane on June 9, 2009. Anna Cardall had called 911 to report her husband behaving erratically, but told dispatchers her husband was unarmed, had bipolar disorder and had taken Seroquel, a medicine used to treat manic episodes associated with the disorder. Cardall was naked and had been trying to direct traffic. The lawsuit alleges police could have contained Brian Cardall differently. The complaint, which is pending in federal court, alleges several missteps made by officer Ken Thompson and Hurricane Police Chief Lynn Excell at the scene:

» Thompson deployed a Taser 42 seconds after arriving at the scene, despite information from a 911 dispatcher that Cardall was bipolar and had taken medication and was waiting for it to take effect. Dispatchers told officers that Cardall spoke of meeting the president and was jumping in front of cars on the road — indications of mental illness.

» Thompson and Excell responded to the scene, despite the fact that the incident was outside of Hurricane city limits and should have been handled by Washington County deputies, who were en route at the time Thompson used his Taser.

» When Thompson arrived at the scene, the 156-pound Cardall, nude and unarmed, was no longer running in the road. Thompson drew his Taser immediately and began shouting commands, without ever trying to engage Cardall in a conversation to defuse the situation. When Thompson yelled, “Come here,” Cardall put his hands in the air.

» Thompson and Excell did not make any efforts to take Cardall into custody after he was hit by a Taser once and remained on the ground. Cardall was breathing and moaning after the first Taser cycle. Thompson waited only two seconds before firing a second shot at Cardall and Excell then rolled Cardall face down in the gravel and handcuffed him.

» Thompson did not use a can of pepper spray as a first method of force. Neither officer tried to use their hands to restrain Cardall.

» Thompson and Excell did not render aid to Cardall before paramedics arrived, although the man appeared to not be breathing. They did not evaluate Cardall’s airway or turn him on his side so he could breathe more easily. Cardall was left handcuffed.

Peter Stirba, a Salt Lake City attorney representing the Hurricane Police Department, maintains Hurricane police responded to the Cardall situation in accordance with their training. After an investigation last year, Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap found the officers were justified in using a Taser on Cardall.

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