Every state has a law allowing individuals to be involuntarily committed in the event that they are in such a mental state that they are an imminent danger to themselves or others. In Florida, it’s called a Baker Act, and it allows a doctor or law enforcement officer to hold a person for up to 72 hours for the purposes of medical and psychological evaluation, if that professional reasonably believes that they are a threat to themselves or others.
My last day at work, I placed a woman under a Baker Act after she told me that she had ingested several handfuls of pills in an attempt to commit suicide. If you do this, your documentation had better be able to stand up in court. Because if you misuse this power, you will and should get your ass sued. It’s one of the reasons why I carry a million dollars worth of malpractice insurance, and why that policy includes coverage of my legal bills.
But what happens if you are a cop with qualified immunity? What if you decide to misuse this power by lying in order to place an ex-girlfriend on an involuntary hold, then use force to enforce it? That’s exactly what Pennsylvania State Trooper Ronald Davis did. One of her friends got it all on video:
This cop is obviously a bad cop. Would I arrest someone for intervening in this situation? What if that person was holding the cop at gunpoint? Would I shoot them for pointing a gun at a cop? Even if it was being done to stop the officer’s felonious battery of an innocent woman? If so, can you still call yourself a good cop?
Something needs to be done. For starters, I think that qualified immunity should be eliminated. Let cops get personally sued into oblivion for stuff like this. They can go out and get malpractice insurance, just like medical professionals do.
Second, I think that cops should have *every* use of force judged by a panel of at least 7 people, and that panel should consist of: A judge, two current or retired police officers, and 4 citizens who are not convicted felons. That panel would have the power to fine police officers or refer them to the Grand Jury and suspend their LEO certification pending completion of the Grand Jury’s deliberations. The judge is there to advise the others on the meaning of the law, and only gets a vote in the event of a tie.
What other things might work?