Doctor questions BART shooting

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Nice piece in the Bay Citizen by Rupa Marya, M.D., who treated Charles Hill, the man killed by BART police. She points to the essential problem -- BART cops don't seem to be able to deal with people who are agitated or mentally ill without shooting them:

While I had seen him agitated before and while I can't speak to all of his behavior, I never would have described him as threatening in such a way as to warrant the use of deadly force. We often have to deal with agitated and sometimes even violent patients in the hospital. Through teamwork, tools and training, we have not had to fatally wound our patients in order to subdue them.

I understand the police are there to protect us and react to the situation around them, but I wonder why the officer who shot Charles did not aim for the leg if he felt the need to use a gun, instead of his vital organs. I wonder if he possessed other training methods to subdue an agitated man with a knife or bottle.

I feel this situation quite deeply. It is hard to watch our civil servants (police) brutally handle a person and their body when I spend my time and energy as a civil servant (physician) honoring the dignity of that person, regardless of their race or social class, their beliefs or their affiliations.

I can tell you why the officer didn't shoot Hill in the leg. Cops are trained to to shoot to kill, and only to kill -- once a cop draws a gun and fires, he or she has already decided to use lethal force and is supposed to aim for center body mass and fire until the target is down. There are reasons for that -- shooting someone in the leg is hard, and if you miss and the person shoots back, you can get killed yourself. Also, if cops were allowed to shoot people in the legs to stop or slow them down, there'd be a lot more police shootings -- and sometimes the cops would miss the legs and kill somone who was only supposed to be disabled. Bottom line: Cops shouldn't be firing their weapons at all unless there's an immediate threat to their lives or the lives of others.

But therin lies the problem: Since the death of Idriss Stelley, San Francisco cops have been getting additional training in dealing with mentally ill people. It hasn't always worked, and it's not a perfect system, but at least there's been an effort. As Dr. Marya clearly knows, health-care workers in the city have to handle mentally ill people, sometimes agitated people, all the time --without killing them.

The BART cops who shot Hill handled the situation really badly

And I don't blame Dr. Marya for wanting to join the next protest.