• Do police deserve a Teflon coating?

    A negative subtext to suicide has always existed, but for the potential jumper, the negativity can become exponentially violent.

    “Let’s admit it.  We hate jumpers!” irresponsibly declares Seattle-based blogger Charles Mudede in “Jumpers” as he bluntly shares a grisly tidbit about Seattle’s Aurora Bridge in The Stranger.

    He practically vibrates as he recounts the anecdote:  “One pissed off cop (SPD Sergeant Miller)… recommended that instead of placing phones linked to crisis centers… the city should place a diving board… just to let the jumpers know how much the public dislikes their pathetic performances.”

    I have read his sinister diatribe many times, always with the same abject horror and sorrow for the suicide survivors he traumatizes.  From reading Mudede and his ilk, I have somewhat learned to steel myself against similar asinine viewpoints about the suicidal ever since the suicide baiting death of my only child, Dylan Yount, in Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco, Feb. 16, 2010.  I am also completely able to imagine Mudede, SPD Sergeant Miller, and San Francisco Police Department Officer Cezar Perez all finding instant common ground regarding attitudes between wet and dry jumpers (water and land).

    Even so, I continue to resent unskilled tutoring.  Consider this latest chop logic from Julie C. in “Enough Is Enough,” the blog page on Facebook.

    “Suicide baiting is wrong,” she writes, “but should it be illegal?… I don’t believe in making everything that is wrong illegal… Did the police do all they could?  No they didn’t,” she answers herself then adds, “but they probably didn’t know what else to do… there is often the fear that attempting and failing will result in being sued… Fear of consequences creates apathy.”

    Her concluding statement next is pure paradox, delivered like an attention-seeking benediction directed to the litigious me in Yount v City and County of San Francisco:  “I ache for your loss and I understand why you are taking the course that you are taking.  I just don’t agree with your conclusion.”

    WTF?  What conclusion have I made that she did not just reiterate?  That suicide baiting is wrong?  That the SFPD did not do “all they could” to help my son?  That they probably did not know what to do?  That they were apathetic?  And, once and for all — people, I did not write the California felony law prohibiting suicide baiting.  In fact, Penal Code 401 is actually a stronger prohibitor to felony crime that the nonexistent cannibalism statutes would presumably be to prevent a Hannibal Lecter, say, from eating a man’s liver with fava beans and a nice chianti.

    All fuzzy thinkers can continue to twist suicide baiting into a million unrecognizable shapes in this lawsuit, but we will still be left with the same situation.  We are living in perilous times when our first responders can decide who is worth saving and whom they will allow to die, and which laws they will enforce and which they will ignore.  Three issues in real-time and cyber-time suicide baiting and bullying loom large for our courtrooms.

    First, are we ready to confer ironclad invincibility on our cops?  Are we prepared to tolerate an absence of training and protocols in order to fend off potential litigation?  While we would ostensibly find such a Teflon coating unsuitable for our doctors and teachers, we never hear about malpractice insurance or merit pay for cops.  Instead, the SFPD has a cadre of malpractice support in their city lawyers, apparently at their beck and call.

    Second, are we so ready to allow our police to turn our streets into de facto courtrooms where they serve as judge and jury regarding the suicidal?  Are we ready to write off the mentally ill as unworthy of our protection or of life itself?  Although not every jumping suicide attempt escalates into a suicide baiting, every participant in a suicide baiting tries to escalate the violence into a jumping death.

    Third, how unhealthy is it for us to be unable to question police protocols because they have grandfathered immunities and privileges totally out of sync with suicide research?  Do we acquiesce to a police refusal to even talk to us, so fearful are they of our litigation?

    If there was nothing to hide in the Dylan Yount suicide baiting death, then why did the SFPD never return a single phone call to the family and delay sending its police report for 17 agonizing long weeks?  How impudent are our police becoming when they can list nine SFPD officers in charge of “crowd control” at a suicide baiting, of all things, the use of the two terms together being diametrically opposed by definition?  They knew they’d screwed up is why.

    Whether it comes from our newspaper editors or from our police, all reporting that perpetuates biases about the suicidal is harmful.  Pretending that mental illness is a choice makes suicide prevention unrealistic.  From newspaper editors denigrating suicidal misery as “performance art” to police officers calling up to the man on the ledge, “You, FOOL!”; from characterizing suicidal death as a “successful jump” or calling for a “hostage negotiator” to diffuse a suicide baiting, we should be ashamed of our barbarism.

    Many find other “pathetic performances” besides the suicidal disease of angst much more disgusting.

    • Kathy, so sorry for your loss. Do you see a therapist? Just curious as I know one of my best friends lost her daughter to suicide and she actively joined a grief group and takes anti-depressive and is doing so much better. Just an idea rather than focusing on the awful. Focus on the beauty that your son showed all the days of his life rather than focusing on the one day that ended it. My friend has been able to do this pretty regularly. I hope you find peace.

      • Thank you, Madge, for your comment. You are a wonderfully kind person and talented writer. Your support has been such a comfort! At the same time, it is very hard to know how to respond to your comment. My focus on suicide baiting has been a sincere attempt to keep this horror from ever happening again. It is certainly work that is exhausting. During the middle year I did see a therapist at least twice a week and a psychiatrist at least once a month for a full year. Even with insurance, the out of pocket expenses were astronomical–over $6000 in copay doctor visits alone! I also took very strong medications as well, 150m of Pristq a day plus a beta blocker. My psychologist did wonderful work, and she helped me realize there isn’t anything inside a black bag or any kind of therapy that can mitigate the injustice that has happened to Dylan and me. She validated my beliefs in every area of this tragedy and empowered me to tell my story as often as I can to as many people as I can. If I do not stand up against such an injustice dealt by the SFPD, who will? I am the only one who can actually bring this fight. I did not ask for this fight, but I will never sacrifice my beliefs. The SFPD would be quite happy for me forget what happened! It is my wish to honor Dylan with this work. He would never want suicide baiting to be condoned. I think that peace for me might occur when I have exhausted every legal recourse available. Matthew Sheppard’s parents worked for over a decade to help pass the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crime Act of 2009. I imagine they felt their work was a very small effort in relation to what their son Matthew brought to the world. While I realize that looking at suicide baiting demeans us all, I also believe that it is a necessary step if we are to exact change. I hate to scare off any support, but does this somewhat explain my “focus”?

    • Yes, I just hope you take yourself out to plays,movies, the beach and have fun as well with friends where you can enjoy the wonderfulness of a sunset. Life still has riches to show you, I believe. Dylan would be happy to know you have days of happiness and that life is not filled with sorrow every minute of every day. Thanks for your honesty. I wish you the best.

    • Srgnt Miller will ‘uninstall’ his driving board (comment) when one of HIS loved ones is standing on it ,being taunted to jump. Julie C will think suicide baiting should be illegal when HER son is baited into suicide. It’s so easy for these people to discount the seriousness of S.B. when it does not involve THEIR loved one.

      But rest assured that if Kathie (or I) are in the audience as their loved ones are being baited to die,she will move hell & high water stop the taunters &get the police involved to save their loved ones. She has educated a good number of people ,that those people would get involved if they came across a SB situation.

      People like Charlies Mudede,blogger, with sic comments, that instill shock,make me sick.Is it a fluke that his name has the word ‘mud’ in it?

      The world needs more people like Kathie,that cares about your child. She is an advocate for what is good & right.
      The world needs less callous people that are annoyed by a person standing on a ledge, on the worst day of his life & the kindest thing that is said to him is “you fool”.

      I want to be counted in Kathie’s group.

    • To madgesw: I love your concern for Kathie. I have had conversations with her privately. She seems to me to have happy moments. She’s driven. I admire her. She has inspired me to write emails,take action & share my thoughts. I send her love & blessings.
      No person should have to lose a loved one like this.Seems to me it ranks right up there with a hate crime.(murder)
      Having an outlet to voice injustice,educating people & creating a page is all very healing,but on going.
      Kathie is saving lives.

      • If everyone cared as much as you do about making the world a better place, then it WOULD be a better place, Liz. To me, it is not debatable who has learned more–I am always humbled by your can-do action and spirit, your quick defense and fearless attitude! Your work in animal rights also exposes you to massive examples of human cruelty, yet you manage to keep fighting. I try to be like you. I am so grateful for your inspiration and support. I also want to add one more Charles Mudede story. I think three suicide baiting stories really stand out: Dylan’s (2010), Shaun Dykes (2008), and a 26-year old woman in Seattle who survived so I do not know her name. Her story garnered a ton of publicity, too, because it was so shocking. It can be Googled by simply typing the words “Jump bitch, jump.” Mudede’s column, “Jumpers” was published in Seattle’s The Stranger in April 2000. The young woman who was taunted, jumped off a bridge in Seattle in August 2001. Mudede surely realizes the impact his writing had on others. Back here in Missouri, we call what he did, “stirring the shit.” He actively worked to convince his readership that the suicidal are not worthy of our caring or saving. You would think that he learned his lesson, but that would not be true. He continues to denigrate the suicidal. If you Google “Mudede suicide writing” you will get his depressing “Suicide Lot” (2002). In that search you will also get Seattle’s letters to the editor about Mudede under “Suicide Notes.” It is hard to believe that this man deliberately and irresponsibly displays his widespread ignorance about mental illness on such a grand scale, and uses his bully pulpit column to create irrational hatred of those who are mentally disabled. Do you see where I am going with this? My voice and your voice may neither be as mighty as Mudede’s but we are using what we have to fight against what is WRONG. Many voices together can become very STRONG. Thank you for helping me summon courage.

      • Maya North

      • August 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm
      • Reply

      What staggers me and what underpins this terrible tragedy is that it demonstrates the powerful lack of empathy in Mudede’s column and Julia C’s blog and in the dessicated hearts of the baiters and the police who did nothing. In addition, Julia C shows an attitude I find all too common these days — relativism. Relativism is used to excuse all manner of evils with such explanations as “their reasons made sense to *them*” and “it’s just part of the culture.” It makes me crazy, but in the long run, it all ends up with nobody taking any sort of personal — or societal — responsibility. It was the responsibility of everybody there at Hallidie Plaza to reach out and try help Dylan; they are all culpable, but the police most of all. It *was* their job. The fact is, we *are* all our brothers’ keepers and it *is* our responsibility to try and help. Big hugs…

      • Relativism, as you explain well, drives me crazy, too. We are all our brothers’ keepers. Your support is such a comfort. As teachers we used to wonder how to teach empathy; now we just mourn its loss.

    • Kathie,Thank you for your kindness.You have touched my heart with your comments.

      Maya’s comments about JulieC’s blog, brings up feelings have to mention.
      First, Julie C said the police didn’t know what else to do.??? These highly trained police &one of the highest budgets in the US police dept? Is she pulling my leg?

      When I spoke to a police office that regularly patrols one of the highest traffic bridges that crosses the Mississippi River,he said,’ those officers in SF should be a shamed & they did not do the right thing. Our officers are held to higher standards,this would not happen here’,he said.
      I asked him IF someone stopped on the bridge to taunt a suicidal person,what would the officer do? He said he would ask the person to move on,then arrest them if they didn’t move on. He said they would be arrested for interfering with a police investigation.
      Police with higher standards…..What a concept!

      Secondly the ‘relativism’ of ‘it’s just part of the culture’.’ Part of the culture’ was a term used to take up for Michael Vick for running a dog fighting business &horribly killing so many of dogs.
      What ‘Culture’ would be PROUD of THAT?

      Over time people in history have been brutal to others. It was how they were raised,part of their culture. Did people hold on to that horror or did they EVOLVE?

      Choices. The nasty horrible things our ancestors did were not passed on as ‘tradition’. They evolved.One generation saw something as wrong & moved towards making their own actions better.

      It takes a village. All the good voices together, will be heard.
      My dogs think so & so do I.

    • Our trial is scheduled to begin August 25, 2014, in San Francisco’s Civic Center Courthouse with the Honorable Judge Cynthia Ming-mei Lee, presiding.

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