Security footage filmed in U.S. military whistleblower Chelsea Manning's apartment last week shows that police responded to calls about Manning's well-being after she posted two tweets that alluded to a planned suicide attempt, by breaking into her home with their guns drawn.
The video encapsulates the U.S. criminal justice system's inappropriate and often dangerous approach to Americans experiencing mental health crises, mental health experts told the Intercept, which obtained the footage.
— The Intercept (@theintercept) June 5, 2018
The Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland confirmed with The Intercept that "concerned parties" had called about Manning's safety on May 27 after she posted the troubling tweets, prompting police to conduct a "welfare check."
The video shows three officers holding their guns up, while another points a taser.
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Police Captain Paul Starks "failed to indicate whether the department sets guidelines on how to conduct welfare checks," according to Micah Lee and Alice Speri at The Intercept.
The level of training police departments have for responding to calls involving people with mental health issues varies widely across the nation, Carl Takei, an attorney at the ACLU, told The Intercept.
"If a department provides no training or very little training on how to deal with situations involving a person in a mental health crisis, the officers are going to default to the training they received, which is very much based on a command-and-control culture," Takei said.
Thankfully, said Manning's friend who was on the phone with her that night, the U.S. Senate candidate was not at home when she posted the tweets.
"If Chelsea had been home when these cops arrived with guns drawn, she would be dead," Janus Cassandra told The Intercept.
The officers' apparent readiness to point their weapons at a person potentially on the verge of harming herself has been mirrored in recent police killings. According to the Washington Post, mental health issues played a role in about a quarter of the police killings of Americans in 2017.