Family members and supporters of a man charged with assaulting several Raleigh police officers are calling on city leaders to put in place mandatory crisis-intervention training so all officers can learn how to effectively deal with people experiencing a mental-health crisis.
They also questioned the Wake County district attorney’s decision to not file charges against the officers involved in a physical struggle with 44-year-old Frederick Darnell Hall in Southeast Raleigh on Friday. Hall, whose family has said struggles with mental illness, faces four felony counts of assault on a law enforcement officer.
“When will the police be held accountable for the baton blows to that man’s spine that could have caused critical injury?’ Wanda Hunter, a community advocate, said Tuesday.
Officers are expected to go through training that should guide their response when they encounter someone who is mentally ill, Hunter said.
“The goal,” she said, “is to help the officers recognize potentially explosive situations and defuse them and take people to treatment centers instead of jail.”
Rick Armstrong, a spokesman with the police union, said two of the officers involved in the confrontation with Hall were trained in crisis intervention. And he said that the training has been mandatory for graduates of the police department’s academy for “two to three years, including the current academy that’s about to graduate.”
Officers who graduated from the academy before the training became mandatory can also receive Crisis Intervention Training. Offered to N.C. law enforcement officers since 2005, it provides at least 40 hours of instruction, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The program aims to prepare officers to help people “experiencing a mental health, substance use or developmental disability crisis.”
Armstrong said he did not know the exact number of sworn officers with the department who have undergone the training, and a spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department did not respond this week to The News & Observer requests for information about the department’s crisis intervention policies and guidelines.
Hall’s supporters called the incident with Hall a “defining moment” between law enforcement and the city’s African American community.
“We are not against law enforcement,” said Diana Powell, executive director and founder of the non-profit, Justice Served NC, Inc. “We are not against the criminal justice system. But it is an attack on police brutality and it is an attack on the fairness that our community is not receiving. It is an attack on the misuse of power and it has to stop.”
The late Tuesday afternoon press conference took place on the front steps of the Light House, a non-profit community center on Tarboro Road.
Hall’s family bonded him out of the Wake County jail, minutes before the press conference. It was the first time they had seen him since Friday when he was beaten and subdued by officers after swinging and striking at them during a traffic stop, near the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Garner Road.
Hall, dressed in a blue-checked shirt, khaki trousers and black shoes, with his hands clasped in front of him, did not speak during the press conference. Kyron Hinton, the 29-year-old man who endured a beating by law enforcement on April 3, was also at the press conference, but did not speak. In Hinton’s case, criminal charges were filed against two state troopers and a Wake County sheriff’s deputy.
“When I saw the video and saw this angry man, I didn’t recognize that person,” Hall’s sister, Angela Sam, said. “He’s the sweetest person. I want to thank the police for not shooting him. I want to thank the police and the district attorney for not shooting him so that I can reach out and touch him.”
Kerwin Pittman, a spokesman with Justice Served NC, thanked the police department for its “swift transparency” in the case, but added, “from the footage I viewed, things could have been handled differently, on both parts.”
“So, from this day forward, I would like to let the leadership of the city of Raleigh and Wake County, who are elected officials; know that we will be watching,” he said. “We will be watching.”
Hunter, however, focused on the tactics of the officers who confronted Hall, lambasting the department for not having all its officers trained to deal with mental health issues.
“That’s part of the problem, all of our officers are not crisis intervention-trained,” said Hunter, who added that it’s an issue that has been previously raised with the police chief and other city leaders. “So when the police union says that not all of the officers are trained to address mental health issues, there’s a problem with that when you’re spending my taxpayer dollars.”
Videos that have been viewed thousands of times online show Hall striking and throwing punches at several officers during the confrontation. Once the officers brought him to the ground, they hit him with a baton, kicked him and stomped on his hand.
The Raleigh Police Department on Monday afternoon released video footage from the officers’ body-worn cameras and patrol-car dashboard cameras. The department had filed a court petition to release the footage, after videos by witnesses were posted on social media.
Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said in a statement Monday that the witnesses’ videos “do not fully and accurately depict the incident.” That’s why she wanted the officers’ footage released, she said.
Hall’s family has said he has a mental illness and has been hospitalized several times since 2012. At the time of his confrontation with police Friday, Hall had not been taking his medication as prescribed, his brother, Douglas Hall, told The News & Observer.
Hall spent two days at WakeMed where he was treated for his injuries with a police officer posted outside of his room door. He was transported to the Wake County jail on Sunday and charged with four felony counts of assault causing injury to a law enforcement officer, along with the misdemeanor charges of resisting an officer, disorderly conduct, failing to wear a seatbelt and leaving a vehicle unsecured.
Hall was jailed under a $45,000 bail. That was reduced on Monday during Hall’s first court appearance when Wake District Court Judge Eric Chasse reduced it to $20,000 and ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Hall was arrested by the N.C. State Highway Patrol in 2016 on charges of reckless driving, resisting an officer and felony assault causing physical injury to a law enforcement officer.
His family members say officers maced him, pulled his shirt over his head and beat him unconscious during the confrontation on Interstate 540.
Court records show that the charges were dismissed last year on March 13, due to “insufficient evidence of criminal intent based on [a] clear mental health crisis.”