With so much activist and media attention focused on Jamar Clark, there’s been little energy left for the community to wonder why John Birkeland of Roseville had to die because he once gave a wrong name to police.
Birkeland, 57, was in the middle of a mental health crisis in February when Roseville police were asked to check on him and make sure he was OK. Assured by Birkeland that he was, police discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for giving a false name to police. So they broke down his door, sent a police dog in, and followed. Birkeland fled to a closet.
When the cops opened the closet door, he stabbed a police dog (the dog recovered), so nearly a half dozen police shot him dead.
There were no protests. No calls to see the police video, and almost no public consideration of how it might have gone differently.
His family went to the Capitol to suggest to a thin audience that maybe the mentally ill don’t have to die in cases like this.
“In John’s story, there could have been a better precaution taken,” his nephew told a Senate committee, which advanced a bill that would require police officers to undergo four hours of training on mental health crises.
We’ve fallen way behind in terms of mental health,” said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, who sponsored the legislation. “This is a piece of the puzzle.”
Nobody testified against the bill, but it still faces an uncertain future. Previous attempts that might’ve helped Birkeland went nowhere over concerns that it would cost too much to require police training. And mental health experts say four hours of training isn’t enough, but it’s better than nothing.
Related: Up to half of people killed by US police are disabled (Guardian)