I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons and think how amazing it would be if life were more like Looney Tunes. You know, when your mom nagged you about whether you made your bed—she knows you didn’t, so why does she insist on framing it as a question?—you’d just smile at her, say “meep meep,” and race down the road so fast your legs looked all blurry.
Or a clever mouse with a sly grin would trick your cat into thinking it was hiding in a hole in the wall while really it was attaching a stick of dynamite to your cat’s tail. The cat, of course, would jump a solid 10 feet in the air after realizing what the sneaky mouse had done, and race around the house trying to detach the dynamite.
There were never consequences. You could drop an anvil on someone’s head and they’d find a way to bounce back. After sinking through the floor, of course. And somehow, no one ever had the thought, “Hey, I’ve got a stick of dynamite strapped to my tail, maybe I should call 911.” Or “Ow, an anvil just crushed my skull, maybe I should call 911.” You’d think, just once, the writers would have Wile E. Coyote call 911, if only for the valuable life lesson to the kids watching.
Then again, given what happened to Andrea Hansen, who called 911 after she said she suffered several epileptic seizures in Pismo Beach, maybe calling 911 isn’t always the best way to get help. In fact, according to her account of what happened, the cops accused her of being drunk and faking her seizures, denied her medical attention, shined a flashlight in her face (which is a great thing to do to an epileptic if you’re in an ACME skit, though not so smart in real life, but who expects a cop to have a basic understanding of medical treatment?), and eventually threw her in jail (sans the medication she needed). And now she’s being hit with charges of public intoxication, battery of a peace officer, and resisting arrest. That’s up to 2 1/2 years in jail for calling 911.
And yeah, maybe Hansen had been drinking and was a severe pain in the ass after blacking out several times, waking up, and calling 911 to report that she had epilepsy and was having seizures, and the cops who arrived to “help” her allegedly shone a flashlight in her face—I know I’m harping on this quite a bit, but if someone’s technically classified as a “first responder” it’s reasonable to expect a lowest common denominator understanding of medical practices. Then one of the cops has the gall to tell Hansen—again this was after she called 911—“if you stop being so hostile, we could probably help you out medically.”
See, I was always under the impression that if you called 911 in need of assistance, whoever came to provide that assistance wouldn’t demand that you jump through hoops in order to receive it. Then again, calling a cop patronizing is like calling an anonymous columnist a sarcastic drunk.
When someone’s sick and vulnerable, why would you send someone who’s a) determined to teach you manners before he’ll assist you and b) doesn’t have any qualms shining a bright light in the eyes of an epileptic? Seems to me a trained chimpanzee could have handled the situation better, and at least Hansen might have stood a chance at leaving in the back of an ambulance instead of a cop car.
So kids, maybe calling 911 isn’t the best idea. Because actions—like being sick and calling 911—have consequences. And apparently, being confused and not altogether at your best and brightest after a seizure is now a crime.
Of course, if you happen to feel like tossing a 10-inch knife under your shirt and heading downtown to harass and ultimately punch a stranger in the face—as Justin Pard allegedly did—you’re looking at a couple of hours in jail before you’re released. With that kind of turnaround, you could probably work at least three random assaults into your schedule per day. Maybe as many as four or five, if you’re quick about it. You know, if you cut down on the creepy questions like, Where are you parked? Do you have a boyfriend? Where’s the surveillance video located? Just get straight down to business and punch a woman you don’t know in the face.
So a man who was obviously unstable allegedly assaulted a strange woman while hiding a deadly weapon after asking her a series of questions that would lead any logical person to conclude that he intended to do something much more horrifying even than punching her in the face. And the geniuses calling the shots at the jail released Pard just seven hours later. Because everything I just mentioned about the suspect apparently equals the sort of person who should be roaming the streets. Should we be surprised that he was arrested again later that night? Well, we should be, but it’s getting harder and harder to muster shock over these types of incidents these days.
The police department is somehow trying to make this about homelessness and panhandling—see their quotes in basically every other media outlet, which all seem to be buying this illogical attempt at misdirection—when really it’s about mental illness and a grossly inadequate law enforcement response to a man who reportedly behaves threateningly and violently toward women.
Clearly, the people we should be sneering at are the poor people sitting passively on a bench holding a sign that reads, “Anything helps. God bless.”
Shredder has some theories about what might help. Send change to email@example.com.