In the past 48 hours, Spokane County law enforcement agencies have responded to 40 suicide calls, including a man who slashed his own throat, and Police Chief Frank Straub is looking for new ways to get those in crisis the help they need.
To highlight Straub's concern, Thursday morning a man who was suicidal was hoping officers would shoot him.
“That individual stands up and was immediately saying to the officer, 'I was waiting for you guys to show up. I want to die. I'm going to make you kill me,'" Straub said.
The lone officer that was first at the scene at Division and Weile Thursday morning had to keep the man, armed with a knife, away from other people in the area but still had to maintain his distance from the knife. Other patrolmen arrived and one of them used his long range taser on the man.
“He falls to the ground and immediately falls to the ground and slashes his neck several times. Fortunately for us it's not a fatal series of cuts,” Straub said.
The man was taken into custody, treated for his injuries at the hospital, and then booked into the Spokane County Jail for first degree assault on a police officer.
As bizarre as the incident sounds, these type of suicidal calls have become all but routine for police and sheriff's deputies. Despondent people know just what it takes to get officers to use deadly force and the chief is looking for new options that don't involve gunfire.
“We need to get our police officers barriers, ballistic or other barriers, that they can hold in front of themselves, putting distance between somebody who wants to so them harm or our community harm,” Straub said.
Unfortunately authorities say that 40 suicide calls is about average for Spokane County during a 48-hour period, so Straub is also advocating more funding for mental health programs and wants more communication between doctors, hospitals and the law enforcement community about patients who are a danger to themselves and the public.