April 27 is Aron Firman's birthday

Or at least it was.

Today would have been Aron’s 28th birthday. For all of you who have lost a loved one or who have friends or loved ones dealing with mental health issues, please take a moment today to send thoughts of love and compassion and healing. Perhaps our collective energy might boost his father’s efforts to establish an Emergency Response Unit for the Collingwood area. The proposed unit would consist of a psychiatric nurse and a plainclothes police officer. This team is trained to DE-escalate situations involving ANY emotional disturbance; units like this exist in some of the more progressive regional police forces (in larger municipalities) in Ontario today but not in the Ontario Provincial Police Services (OPP).

Last year the unit in Toronto resolved more than 300 such cases WITHOUT violence. If you support such a unit, please send a note to your MPP (in Simcoe-Grey Jim Wilson http://www.jimwilsonmpp.com) so that he/she has the support needed to go to the Province for funding. More of these successful methods must be sought out and implemented http://www.theenterprisebulletin.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2939554 .

Police are trained to take control of situations, i.e. employing methods proven to ESCALATE emotionally charged situations. It is not the job of police to calm people down, empathize with their difficulties or needs, or identify whether the situation could be resolved without violence. They are trained to simply TAKE CONTROL.

In this case, it cost Aron his life. He was unarmed. A unit such as the one his father has proposed would have responded differently, especially when Aron responded to the question, “Have you taken your meds?” (a question the officers DID ask) with a shake of the head indicating, “No.” An appropriately trained team would not have threatened a night in jail. They would not have been armed with a Taser to deploy on Aron when he panicked and tried to run. He would be alive today if the Taser was classified as a lethal weapon http://www.theenterprisebulletin.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2881735 . In the report of the SUI, the use of the Taser is unequivocally stated to have caused Aron’s death. As we await news of a date for a coroners inquest into Aron’s death, Tasers continue to be used by the OPP as “non-lethal” weapons.

Mental health issues have risen to an all-time high. It’s no wonder, with the crazy(!) lives we lead. But responses to those issues have not kept pace.  It’s been nearly a year since Aron was killed. When will the headlines remind us, once again, that tragedies like this one are destined to be repeated unless we force change? Political will only follows public opinion when that opinion is informed, unrelenting and HEARD. It’s time we implement alternatives to the standard police/violence/take-him-down model and protect those in our midst–people we count as friends and family–who are most vulnerable. If we don’t make it happen, who will?

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