San Francisco still defends 2010 SFPD-sponsored suicide baiting
In your capacity as deputy city attorney for San Francisco, you write in the first paragraph of your April 20, 2015, Respondent’s Brief that, except for one communicator, “There was no other communication directed by police officers toward Mr. Yount.”
You say that besides the command-style orders from Officer Cezar Perez who said, “Get back into your apartment, YOU FOOL!” that “no other communication” occurred between any other of the twenty-three police officers and my son Dylan Yount at his suicide baiting death on February 16, 2010. While you might have chosen “no other verbal communication,” it is difficult to believe you picked “no other communication.”
Perhaps it’s your background as a lawyer that led you to that strange word choice, but have you — or have none of your other fellow city lawyers working on Kathie Yount v. City and County of San Francisco — had no formal training in psychology at all? Are you unfamiliar with communication research? Do you not understand that nonverbal messages are the most critical in all human communication?
Please allow me to introduce you to the work of communication researcher, UCLA Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Albert Mehrabian. His 40 plus years of research confirms that communication is transported most often, strangely enough, by nonverbal cues.
In his widely-accepted 7%-38%-55% formula, Dr. Mehrabian concluded that only about seven percent of communication happens directly though spoken words. Tone of voice carries more meaning than words themselves (38 percent) and body language, which includes facial expressions, carries even more (55 percent).
While the most often cited Mehrabian Rule is that 93 percent of our daily communication is nonverbal, perhaps the takeaway point of his renowned work is that people tend to believe the nonverbal behavior and tone of the speaker more than the speaker’s direct words themselves.
While Mehrabian’s percentage rule cannot possibly apply to every communication situation, of course, an understanding of how to communicate (when you are the speaker) as well as how one interprets (when one is the receiver of the message) are both effective management tools, especially for police responding to the suicide scene.
Indeed, effective communication is of extreme importance in a suicide baiting scenario as was the case on 2-16-10 when some in the crowd had already legitimized the victim, my son, as their target. He was further deemed unworthy of police protection beginning with the arrival of the first San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers and continuing as more and more of them reported to Hallidie Plaza, and the two dozen still failed to enforce California law (Penal Code 401).
In your same introductory paragraph, you say, “There is no evidence Mr. Yount could hear anything from the ground,” an idea you reiterate eight times inside your thirty-eight page brief, along with a similar skepticism (also multiple times) about whether Dylan was even aware of a police presence.
Are you suggesting the SFPD would be unable to save a person who was deaf? Or blind? Or are you saying that those experiencing suicidal crises, somehow become deaf and blind? You mention both “elevation” and “state of mind” as factors. Dylan’s height above the plaza would have put him in a better position than anyone else to hear “loud voices,” which is exactly how Officer Perez described his. I think before death, one’s senses are generally held by experts to be substantially heightened, not diminished.
Besides all that, if the SFPD was uncertain about whether Dylan could hear them, why didn’t they use a megaphone or other sound amplification device? Aren’t they supposed to have those in their patrol cars? “SFPD General Orders, 8.03 #D Crowd Control” clearly states, “equipment appropriate to the size and noise of the crowd shall be used.”
Even if Dylan could not hear (which I think you know he did — the police knew he did) much more “communication directed by police officers” was going on. Dylan witnessed — as did everyone else — SFPD officers methodically outlining his jump zone with their official yellow police tape. He saw them guard this separate zone as the only protected place where plaza onlookers were not permitted to enter.
Everyone who stood in the plaza understood the SFPD’s communication: Aim here, “YOU FOOL!”
On one hand, you say that no interaction between the twenty-three other officers and Dylan occurred. Yet on the other, you say officers could not control the crowd or make arrests because they could not “turn their attention away” from Dylan “to pursue the persons” in the crowd who were urging him to jump. You say our argument boils down to a “resource allocation critique.” It sure does!
You say, “There was not a sufficient police presence to engage in the ideal control the Appellate envisions.” There were twenty-three officers, who you say were not communicating with Dylan. Not one could fetch a megaphone? Not one could start separating the crowd from him? Why were they listed in the police report log as being present for “crowd control”? You say the crowd is not the defendant, but ignore that some members of the crowd could have been defendants if the SFPD officers had done their jobs.
You say, “Officer Perez noticed a few people in the crowd who were laughing and saying or yelling inappropriate things and repeatedly told them to ‘shut up’ but did not otherwise interact with them. Wow, that’s a lot of detail to be buried in such an awkward sentence! Now I am not prepared at this time to call Officer Perez a liar, but I do know he said the same thing in his May, 2010 deposition.
Even so, no “shut-up’s” appear on the movie files we have from Beto Lopez of Mooncricket Films, the filmmaker you call “a videographer.” Indeed, anyone with a cell phone can be a videographer and I do heartily acknowledge that many videographers were there, but we do not have any of their tapes. Do you?
You say, “Observing that Mr. Yount appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Officer Perez continued to yell at him to go back inside.” By now I know that you have surely read Dylan’s autopsy and know there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol in his body. Even so, you deliberately embedded Officer Perez’s speculation that Dylan was high inside the judges’ minds without ever mentioning the real results of the autopsy. I doubt these busy judges will read an autopsy, do you?
Besides, what difference would it have made if Dylan — or anyone else — had been coked to the gills, anyway? It has nothing to do with what the SFPD did — or did not do — when they received the 911 call and responded to their sworn duties ” to serve and protect?” This deceit is all part of your sham — known as a straw man argument — you set up to be defeated. This case has nothing to do with drugs or police managing someone who is high and you know that.
This case is about SFPD performance on February 16, 2010. It’s about a police department that refused for over two decades to implement Crisis Intervention Training (Memphis Model) until it was mandated for them in 2011, a date too late to save my son, but possibly not for others. Prior to 2011, the SFPD relied on its own rogue police in-house training called P.C.I.T.
And how did that work out for them? On the day of my son’s death the only “hostage negotiator” (embarrassing anachronism) they could round up was one who supposedly arrived in the last four minutes. He couldn’t even figure out how to get inside the building or the elevator, an unacceptable situation you call, “slightly delayed.” Why didn’t other officers have the door open and the elevator waiting? In his deposition, this officer said this had been his “first” response call to a suicide attempt. Yet never once do you mention CIT training in your brief, a situation which still remains critical since Chief Greg Shur’s goal — 25 percent CIT trained — is so minimal. SFPD officers should be 100% CIT trained.
As for Officer Perez’s publicly denigrating Dylan as a fool during the most critical moment of his life, you write, “This word [fool], at most an insult, does not come within the umbrella of acts that constitute the intentional infliction of emotional distress.” At most an insult?
Let me demonstrate insult, Elizabeth.
To mock my case you quote us, “According to the Appellant, ‘The video demonstrates that Mr. Yount was plainly troubled by the crowd’s urgings and grew more distraught as the crowd’s incitement became more aggressive.'” To this description, written by my attorney who characterized what he saw without ever asking me about what I had seen but would have agreed, you actually reply, “The video shows no such thing.”
You actually try to trivialize and paint Dylan’s last behavior as casual — “mostly standing with a bent knee and a hand on his hip” — and you continue to dehumanize and disrespect him when you actually say “Even if Mr. Yount were to appear more troubled as the time of his life-ending decision approached. . .”
Even if he would appear more troubled. Say what? How much more troubled could he have appeared before taking his own life?
“the weight of his decision is more likely a cause for agitation that a few isolated remarks from far below.”
A few isolated remarks.
How do you think you’d do on the ledge, Elizabeth?
All those upturned faces, their cameras and cell phones aimed at you, their raised arms and pointing fingers. The police laughing. Laughter is communication. You say the police are “not liable for failing to silence a crowd after responding to a call for service.”
Then why arrive on the suicide baiting scene at all? Just why.
I do not wish you ill will, but you are a disgrace to the legal profession. Sue me.