Buried Deep in the Spokesman’s Blogs — Chief Mike Lasnier on Mental Health Interventions and the Spokane Police Department
Posted by Arroyoribera on August 4, 2007
Among the nearly four dozen responses to the Spokesman-Review’s Video Journal blog page was this apologetic by Mike Lasnier, Suquamish tribal police chief on the Port Madison reservation near Poulsbo. Lasnier describes his experience and that of his police department with 28-year-old Josh Levy, who jumped to his death on July 27, 2007, after a failed intervention by the Spokane Police Department, which after 20 hours decided to taser Josh. Just as tasering has failed repeatedly around the country, resulting in deaths, lawsuits, and police abuses, it failed for the nth time in Spokane, Washington.
Not only does the death of Josh Levy demonstrate the failure of the Taser technology but more importantly it demonstrates the failure of the philosophy, mentality, and training of the Spokane Police Department.
Undoubtedly the most important point demonstrated by the incident is the same one demonstrated repeatedly in the last few years in Spokane–that the Spokane Police Department is a law unto itself, outside of civilian control and oversight, and plagued by the arrogance and corruption of power.
Following Chief Lasnier’s post, I have included three items:
1) My response which is directed at him personally and calls on him to counsel his friend and fellow chief, Ann Kirkpatrick of the Spokane Police Department, to lead or get out of the way.
3) More bio information on Chief Lasnier, suggesting both that he is not an appropriate expert on mental health interventions and that he can appropriately counsel Chief Kirkpatrick on leadership.
Monroe Street Bridge suicide reaction post by Chief Mike Lasnier
I am luckier than Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
Six month ago, I was standing on a bridge here in Kitsap County, talking to the same young man who jumped from the bridge to his death in Spokane last week. He was standing on the railing, so we couldn’t rush him. He wouldn’t acknowledge or speak to us.
We knew he had jumped from this, and other bridges, on previous occasions, and had been talked off of several bridges as well. We had a 50/50 chance, but he was the one making the final decision.
We eventually got him off of the railing, and ended up rushing and tackling him. The first time we started to close in on him, he climbed back up on the railing. On a previous occasion, he had leapt into the waters of Agate Passage before the police even arrived, but survived. On a subsequent occasion, he had agreed to surrender, and be helped over the railing by a Police Officer, but as soon as the officer touched him, he let go of the railing and attempted to fall. He was caught in midair by officers of the Suquamish Police, Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, and pulled back across to safety. No Taser was used in that case, but that didn’t stop him from faking a surrender, and then suddenly attempting to fall to his death. After his first jump from this bridge, when he hit the water and survived, he had learned to stand over the rocks.
Three encounters. Two ended with him jumping or attempting to jump, even after hours of effort by professional negotiators, who knew this young man, and had the benefit of experience in dealing with him.
This doesn’t count the incidents where he jumped off of bridges in Bremerton, or when he was removed from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
I was the first officer to arrive at the bridge on one of those incidents, since the bridge is very near my office. I walked up to the young man to try to speak with him, and he turned his head and looked into my eyes. That is one of the most vivid memories I have in my 20 years in law enforcement. They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. I looked into that young mans eyes for 2 seconds, and I knew that we were in deep trouble. His eyes had a look in them that make it clear that jumping or staying on the bridge deck were all the same to him.
What did we have that Spokane did not? Why was our outcome different? I have incredible, wonderful, caring officers; so does Spokane. I went to the academy 2 decades ago with a wonderful Spokane officer, and have worked with Spokane officers on various projects and issues since then. You have top notch officers, highly respected throughout the State for their professionalism and caring.
When you compare leadership…well, there really is no comparison. Anne Kirkpatrick is one of the best there is. Anywhere. She is known throughout the United States as a leading, guiding force in Law Enforcement, well ahead of her time, highly educated, sharp as a tack, and full of compassion for the community and officers she serves. You can’t do better, and I’m nowhere near her league. The people of Spokane are lucky to have her.
The difference was luck. We got lucky. Last week, Spokane did not.
I attended a “State of the Art” training last week, taught by Nationally recognized experts on the topic of Managing Critical Incidents such as this. The lead instructor had retired after 30 years leading the SWAT and Crisis teams for L.A. County. There were no magic answers. There is no “Silver Bullet”. There is no tactic that will work every time.
Dear people…this young man was extremely mentally ill. Logic does not work on someone in his condition. Reasoning does not work. Negotiating is of extremely limited value. Even the focused, careful and judicious use of force doesn’t come with guarantees. What could the Spokane Police do? The answer is: “The best that they could, given almost impossible odds against them”.
When you are on the deck of a bridge, with the wind whipping and stinging your eyes, on the edge of an abyss, with a suicidal, mentally ill man who wants to jump to his death, it is one of the most terrifying things you can imagine. Not for the reasons you might think; I can assure you, the officers on that bridge weren’t thinking of themselves; I can guarantee you Chief Kirkpatrick wasn’t. The Chief and her officers were hoping against hope that they could get that young man safely off of that bridge. I’ve been in their shoes. You don’t worry about getting hurt; you worry about making a mistake that will cost a life.
The only problem with worrying about that is that there is no “right” way and “wrong” way to handle the situation.
I am a student of Tactics. As a former Marine Corps Platoon Sergeant and Scout-Sniper, and later as a SWAT officer for nearly a decade in a metrolpolitan area, and a graduate of Northwestern University School …. (Lasnier’s post exceed the S-R blog limit and he continued in his comments with the following) Well, I guess there are limits to the length of these posts…LOL. My point was that these situations are fast paced, rapidly changing, full of peril, and can’t be solved with a “cookie cutter” solution. The element of chance is at play; will the taser work? Will one of the probes hit a button or a wallet, and fail to work properly? There are limited windows of opportunity, and no matter what the police choose to do, there will always be the risk of something going wrong. Usually, failing to act is a far bigger mistake than taking action. That is why Police work is a dangerous profession.
The Spokane Police did the best that anyone could have hoped for in an impossible situation. They deserve the honor and respect of their community for the herculean effort they made in this case, in spite of the outcome that they couldn’t control.
We can “Stone the Keepers at the gate”…but then how well will we sleep at night?
The real question isn’t the actions of the police. It is “Why do we have laws and a mental health system in places a suicidal young man back onto the streets when he is such a blatant, obvious danger to himself”
The police were able to prevent him from jumping off of a bridge on at least five prior occasions: it was inevitable that there would be a sixth time, and just as surely, it was inevitable that sooner or later, he would be successful. To blame that on the Spokane Police is pathetic, and avoids facing the real issues this incident highlights. There are mental health professionals and judges that have said this young man wasn’t a danger to himself, again, and again, and again, in spite of the obvious, blatant facts to the contrary. He shouldn’t have been on a bridge in Spokane; he should have been in a secure facility, recieving the help he needed, and had desperately cried out for.
Chief Mike Lasnier
Posted by Chief Mike Lasnier | 30 Jul 6:19 PM
—Response by David Brookbank—
I appreciate all the anonymous posting by the likes of “Mike”, “Todd”, “Joe”, “Rob”, “Kevin” etc.
In my correction of my original post, I did not mean to say “killing” with regard to Sean Fitzpatrick. In my haste to correct the error in the date I made that second mistake. Thanks to the reader who corrected it.
In my WordPress blog, Spokane Police Abuses, I have included much more information about the history and extent of problems within the Spokane Police Department, information about their militarized training and armaments, questions to be raised about their practices, etc.
I was “successfully” arrested by Spokane Police in civil disobedience activities twice some 20 years ago. I have also participated with Spokane Police in hundreds of “police state” actions, i.e., home visits involving Child Protective Service cases. There are some fine officers, one of whom I consider to be one of the best “social workers” I ever worked with.
Nevertheless, I would not want the Spokane Police Department to intervene to help me or a friend or a family member in a “mental health crisis”. They are “zero for four” in the most recent prominent situations and one need only do some studying to understand that many, many more of the shooting deaths at the hands of Spokane Police officers and officers around the country are failed mental health interventions.
As to the comments of Chief Mike Lasnier of the Suquamish Police, I would say this: Regardless of your high estimation of yourself and your profession, many people–their voices are here in these posts and heard on the streets of Spokane–do not consider you protectors. Here in Spokane we are being propagandized about terrorist and gangs while most Spokane citizens can’t get help from the police with anything.
Beyond that average citizens now talk about their horror at seeing a police car behind them.
I would suggest Chief Lasnier that for many, such as myself, your training as a killer–-by the U.S. Marines, by SWAT trainers, by military police trainers, and private use-of-force trainers-–disqualifies you as an expert on saving lives.
If you don’t live in Spokane, Chief, you don’t know what you are talking about in regard to Spokane. We will deal with our police in the court of public opinion and the halls of city hall, and, if necessary, in more protests such as those on July 9, 2007.
If you want to do something productive, Chief Lasnier, call up your friend Chief Kirkpatrick and tell her it is time to come out openly and unequivocally for immediate independent oversight of the Spokane Police Department in the form of a Boise-style Ombudsperson and that, furthermore, she should bring an immediate end to the practice of killings by her officers being investigated by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and vice versa.
Now get back out there, Chief Lasnier, and see if you can tackle, tas, tear-gas, TAC or terrorize another mentally ill individual such as Otto Zehm, Josh Levy, Jerome Alford, or Sean Fitzpatrick.
Posted by David Brookbank | 4 Aug 11:01 PM
Subject: Beretta 92 Series Pistols
Chief Mike Lasnier
Product: Model 92F
I have been carrying Beretta Model 92’s since I purchased an Italian made 92SB in 1984 while I was in the Marines. I had zero faith in the crappy 1911’s that we were issued at the time. I was a Primary Marksmanship Instructor, and shot on a Marine Corps Rifle and Pistol Team. The 1911’s were incredibly unreliable, even though the armorers babied them. I was very happy when the Corps went to the Beretta, and got my 92F in 1987.
When I went into Law Enforcement, I purchased a 92F, and carried it for many years while working as a city cop. I was the department high shooter with it for many years, and had also shot competitively while in the Corps, and on the SWAT team. It saw many tours of duty, since I was assigned to both narcotics and SWAT at the time. We would shoot at the sniper ranges, and after we were done with the rifles, we would grab some pistol ammo, and work on knockdown targets at 100 and 200 yards with our pistols. People were amazed at the accuracy of the Beretta, and I could drop the knockdowns 9 out of 10 times at 200 yards. (I won quite a few free beers that way!)
I needed a backup gun for Narcotics, so I decided to go with the best, and bought a second Beretta 92F!
When I became Chief of a small rural community near salt water, I switched to the Stainless 92F, which I dearly love, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
My final upgrade was to the Stainless 92 Vertec, which maintains the same high standards of all of the others, with a few wonderful improvements. I was worried about the change in the grip, but it still points as perfect as ever, and having the light/laser mounted on the gun for building searches is a wonderful feature.
I’ve been betting my life on Beretta Pistols every day for over 20 years. I can purchase and carry any pistol in the world. I’ve shot them all, and tried them all. I’ll stick with my Beretta. There was an old saying in the old West; “Beware the man with one gun”. Especially if that gun is a Beretta!
Keep up the good work!
Chief Mike Lasnier
[Blogger note– Lasnier states in his promo for Beretta (paid promo?): There was an old saying in the old West; “Beware the man with one gun”. Especially if that gun is a Beretta!
After the botched “rescue” of Josh Levy, Lasnier could have as easily said, “Beware the man with one gun, especially if that gun is a Taser”.]
Mike Lasnier, Chief of Police for the Suquamish Tribe — Chief Lasnier is the Chief of Police for the Suquamish Tribe. He has over 18 years of Law Enforcement Experience. After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines, where he served in Nuclear Security, and as the Platoon Sergeant for a Scout-Sniper Platoon, he went to work for a city South of Seattle, which has the highest violent crime rate in the State of Washington. He served as a Narcotics Detective for six years, and also on a regional SWAT team as an entry team member, and later as a sniper. He moved to Indian Country Law Enforcement over 8 years ago, as a Detective and Training Manager, and then Chief of Police for the past 7+ years. He first worked for the Lower Elwha Tribe, and moved to the Suquamish Tribe in 2004. Tribal Law Enforcement has become his passion. He is currently serving his second term as the President of the Northwest Association of Tribal Enforcement Officers. He is an instructor in a broad number of Law Enforcement disciplines such as firearms, defensive tactics, and chemical agents, less lethal munitions, patrol procedures, use of force, and officer safety and survival. Chief Lasnier is a Tactical Tracker, and the Suquamish Tactical Tracking Team won best overall team in regional competitions in 2005. Chief Lasnier is a strong proponent of teamwork, cooperation, and resource sharing in Indian Country, which certainly applies to data sharing. He is the founder of the TENET (Tribal Enforcement Network) project, and the first chairman of the TENET charter committee. He is also active in the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs representing Tribal issues, the Kitsap Domestic Violence Task Force, and Homeland Security Region 2. He is also a single father, who enjoys camping with his two wonderful sons.