Never Cut the Truth

I’m going to put my old friend, Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris, on the spot. The current issue of the magazine features a piece by Harold Pollack about the problem of over-aggressive police response to people with intellectual disabilities who are causing a public disturbance. Pollack himself is more than normally attuned to these issues because his brother-in-law has fragile X syndrome. Here’s the conclusion of his piece:

Vincent didn’t pose safety issues in the three years he lived with us; he is blessed with a sweet disposition, and is wonderfully gentle with Veronica and our two young daughters. Still, the possibility of behavioral crisis remains in the back of our minds, in the queue of anxieties and worries. As does our concern about whether it would ever be safe or wise to summon law enforcement help.

Veronica and I were sitting at breakfast one morning. She was reading a Tribune story about a mentally ill young man who was shot and killed by police called to the family home. Veronica looked up and calmly stated: “I don’t care what Vincent is doing. Never call the police.” We have no particular reason to believe we’ll need to make that call. I just wish we had greater confidence in what would happen if we ever did.

That was the conclusion, anyway. The last paragraph got cut. This is going to sound harsher than I mean it to, but that was a very bad call, and it sort of pisses me off. It basically forced Pollack to lie, and editors shouldn’t do that. Very plainly, Veronica Pollack is more than just uneasy about calling the police if Vincent is ever in trouble. She’s flatly decided not to, and was willing to say so publicly. That’s important, and not just because it most likely represents a widespread view, which makes it relevant from a policy point of view. It’s important because it’s the truth. We should never turn that down when it’s handed to us on a silver platter.


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