Tag Archives: Mental health in Berkeley

BART promotes suicide prevention line as incidents spike

Mental health advocate Kevin Hines speaks in front of the new BART signage listing the Suicide Lifeline Number. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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BART hosted a press conference in its downtown Berkeley station Tuesday to announce a new campaign to combat a recent spike in suicides on its train tracks. By mid-March, there had already been six crashes and five fatalities, the agency reported.

Last year, there were 14 crashes involving BART, including several incidents at the North Berkeley and downtown Berkeley stations. One incident in downtown Berkeley in November — the eighth and final BART-related fatality of 2014 — killed a UC Berkeley student. In 2013, there were six crashes, five of which were fatal.

The main feature of the campaign is station signage promoting the toll-free National Suicide Lifeline, alerting possible troubled patrons that “suicide is not the route.” The number, 800-273-TALK, directs callers to around-the-clock free, confidential counseling from suicide prevention centers in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties.  … Continue reading »

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Police

Man tries to jump in front of BART train in Berkeley

Two people have been rescued from the tracks since Saturday at the North Berkeley BART station. Photo: Austin Cross
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A distraught man tried to jump in front of a train at the North Berkeley BART station Sunday night, the day after another man tried to commit suicide in the same station, authorities said.

According to the BART police, a man who was “distraught over dating relationship issues” jumped onto the tracks as a train entered the station at approximately 9:30 p.m.

Michael Mighetto Hoefling said he was getting off a train when he heard a man yelling loudly. 

“Most of the people going home exited, and just as I was about to [leave] I went back down the stairs,” he said via email. Someone was screaming, and “yelling ‘a man is on the tracks.’ It was a horrific sound.”

Hoefling recorded the aftermath of the incident, mostly by audio, as the man was being pulled off the tracks by a passer-by. He described the harrowing scene to Berkeleyside.  … Continue reading »

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Police

Update: Man taken to hospital with moderate injuries after incident at North Berkeley BART; station has re-opened

The North Berkeley BART station. Photo: Ryan Anderson
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BART has closed its North Berkeley station after a report at 4:26 p.m. Saturday of a person under a train.

Scroll to the bottom of this post for updates.

According to a statement from BART, the victim was reported under a train traveling from Richmond to Fremont.

BART is attempting to get a bus bridge in place between the North Berkeley and Del Norte stations, but currently the North Berkeley station is closed and there is no service.

According to unconfirmed scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside, Berkeley firefighters were dispatched to platform 2 at the North Berkeley BART station just after 4:30 p.m. after someone reportedly jumped in front of a BART train. … Continue reading »

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Out of Darkness walk aims to end silence around suicide

Two people at the Out o Darkness Walk stop in front  of a makeshift remembrance of those who have committed suicide. Photo: Vivian Liu
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By Katherine Griffin

Nine years ago this month, Dale Boland’s son Gulliver took his own life. He was just 14.

In the months that followed, Boland, a  music teacher in Berkeley, remembers her family’s grieving being compounded by how hard it was to talk openly about the way Gulliver died. “People don’t talk about suicide,” she said. “It just has such a stigma.”

That’s beginning to change.

On Saturday Oct. 18,  Boland, her 17-year-old daughter Marielle, and several friends, were among more than 600 people who gathered before dawn at Lake Merritt for the sixth annual Out of the Darkness walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The walk, one of several hundred held each year around the country, is intended to give survivors of suicide loss a way to grieve and publicly remember their loved ones — and to help end the silence and shame that still keeps suicide hidden. … Continue reading »

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Noose at Berkeley High raised concerns over past suicide

Noose at BHS. Photo: anonymous
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Berkeley High administrators considered whether a noose found hanging in a tree earlier this month might have been in some way related to the suicide in February of a 21-year-old man on the BHS campus, according to Berkeley Unified Assistant Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi.

On Oct. 1 at around 2 p.m., a thin rope tied in the form of a noose was found in a tree on the campus green at Berkeley High School.

Berkeley police were called to investigate the incident, and worked with school safety officers.

Eight days after the discovery, on Oct. 9., Berkeley High Vice Principal Jorge Melgoza sent an email to the BHS community detailing what actions the school was taking in the wake of the noose’s discovery.

Melgoza described the noose as an “act of hate” and said it was “a clear and stark reminder that racism is alive and well in this country.”

Administrators also wondered whether the noose might be in some way related to the suicide on Feb. 17 on the campus of Michael B. Hamilton, who was not affiliated with the school, according to Scuderi, who, until last year, was principal of Berkeley High. … Continue reading »

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Always on call: Inside the Berkeley Police dispatch center

Berkeley Police dispatch center. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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For most people in crisis, the first point of contact for help is not the officer or the firefighter, but a voice on the phone line. A missing loved one, a car crash, a harrowing encounter with a violent stranger: dialing 911 happens as the situation unfolds, or in its immediate aftermath.

But who answers those calls? And who sends help? In Berkeley, at any given time, four to six people are charged with those responsibilities. Earlier this year — as the police department grappled to reorganize its dispatch center prompted by tensions with officers, complaints from the public and a lawsuit that aimed to highlight, and drive, needed changes in practice — Berkeleyside signed up to “sit along” on a Friday night dispatch shift for an inside look at how the office runs.

What challenges does the job bring, and what skills does it require? What do dispatchers wish the public knew? Is there a way to complain if a dispatcher falls short? Read on for an in-depth report on this crucial public service department, which handles critical situations throughout Berkeley on a daily basis. 

“You can’t be in a dispatch center if you can’t listen to 100 things at once”

In a dimly-lit room in the Berkeley Police Department, where screens outnumber bodies more than four to one, the ringing of the telephone can signal anything from a barking dog or loud party to a suicide attempt, a brutal killing or a hostage situation. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley solicits Taser study; anti-Taser group to hold forum Thursday night

Advocates for and against Tasers showed up Tuesday night to speak to the Berkeley City Council. Glenn Turner, in front, says she would rather see an investment in mental health resources. Behind her is an officer whose hand was broken during a recent physical fight with a suspect who refused to stop when the officer asked him to. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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As the city of Berkeley ramps up efforts to study whether its police force should carry Tasers, a local coalition has planned a forum Thursday night to collect community feedback on the issue.

The Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 in May to have the city study the thorny question. Council members Max Anderson, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguín voted against the proposal from council members Laurie Capitelli, Gordon Wozniak and Darryl Moore to get a report from the city manager about Tasers, and have the city’s Police Review Commission consider the subject as well.

Many Berkeley Police officers attended the meeting in May and spoke about the need to carry Tasers, which they say would make officers and those who come into contact with them safer, and also save the city money in the long run. Officers have said data show that departments with Tasers have seen fewer “use of force” complaints, fewer injuries to officers and suspects, and reduced costs associated with on-the-job injuries.

Community members who do not believe police should carry Tasers also shared their concerns: that police have enough weapons, that Berkeley doesn’t have enough crime to justify adding another one, and that there are too many risks associated with Taser shocks. They cited the possibility of pre-existing medical conditions that could increase health risks, as well as concerns about the disproportionate use of Tasers on minorities, the poor and people in mental health crisis.

The city issued a request for proposals Aug. 25 to find a consultant to look into the matter. Proposals are due Tuesday at 2 p.m. … Continue reading »

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Officials agree to study Tasers for Berkeley police

Advocates for and against Tasers showed up Tuesday night to speak to the Berkeley City Council. Glenn Turner, in front, says she would rather see an investment in mental health resources. Behind her is an officer whose hand was broken during a recent physical fight with a suspect who refused to stop when the officer asked him to. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A Berkeley City Council majority voted Tuesday night to look closely at whether local police should one day be trained and equipped to use Tasers.

About a dozen people asked city officials not to allow police to have the weapon, while approximately the same number — most of whom were Berkeley Police officers — said they were in favor of the city studying the issue.

Many officers pleaded with the city to move forward on the proposal from three council members to study the possibility of Tasers in Berkeley. Officers have said data show that departments with Tasers have seen fewer “use of force” complaints, fewer injuries to officers and suspects, and reduced costs associated with on-the-job injuries.

Community members against Tasers said police have enough weapons, that Berkeley doesn’t have enough crime to justify adding another one, and that there are too many risks associated with Taser shocks. They cited the possibility of pre-existing medical conditions that could increase health risks, as well as concerns about the disproportionate use of Tasers on minorities, the poor and people in mental health crisis. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Tasers, torture and the soul of the city

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Before I discuss the facts and reasons that lead me to oppose arming Berkeley Police with Tasers, I invite readers to remember a bit of Berkeley history.

This city was once nationally known for its unapologetic defense of the rights of the poor and oppressed. It cared about police abuse, racism and the treatment of people with disabilities, both physical and mental. This city was a monument to the hope we hold that education, culture and consciousness, rather than … Continue reading »

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Taser report: Tool could save Berkeley millions, decrease use of force, but oversight and training would be key

The Berkeley City Council will consider asking city staff on May 6 to prepare report on the use of Tasers.   Photo: Creative Commons
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Berkeley officials plan to consider in early May whether to take their first deep look at whether the city’s police officers should be allowed to carry Tasers.

But it won’t exactly be the first time the issue has been studied by the city. A lengthy report — obtained via a Public Records Act request from Berkeleyside to the Berkeley Police Department — took a look in 2011 at potential costs and benefits tied to Taser use, but the report was never publicly distributed or shared with council members, and did not prompt any action within the Police Department.

According to the comprehensive report, which was completed as part of a master’s degree in public policy by a then-UC Berkeley student and former UC Berkeley police officer, the city could save millions of dollars and, potentially, save lives if the city made the investment in Tasers.

But the report also looks closely at reported risks associated with Taser use, particularly in terms of medical problems that have been linked to stun gun shocks, as well as financial liabilities. … Continue reading »

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Councilmen: Time is now to discuss Tasers in Berkeley

Councilman Laurie Capitelli. March 5, 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Three Berkeley City Council members are bringing the issue of Taser use by local police to the forefront with a proposed council agenda item currently set for consideration in early May.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli has drafted an item to request a report from the city manager about the possible use of Tasers by police in Berkeley, along with consideration of the idea by the city’s Police Review Commission.

Capitelli said it was last week’s violent attack on a Berkeley Police officer at Aquatic Park that brought about the current proposal. A man has been charged with attempted murder in that case. … Continue reading »

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Police call for Tasers after attempted killing of officer

The Berkeley City Council will consider asking city staff on May 6 to prepare report on the use of Tasers.   Photo: Creative Commons
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The president of the Berkeley Police Association is asking city officials to consider the use of Tasers by Berkeley officers after a violent attack on an officer Monday.

The police association, the union for the rank and file, has been asking publicly for Tasers since at least last year. According to association president Sgt. Chris Stines, 95% of California’s law enforcement agencies use Tasers, but Berkeley is not among them.

Last fall, after a man tried to stab himself to death in Berkeley, Stines said officers with Tasers would have been able to resolve that situation with less injury. Since then, Stines said this week, there have been at least four other incidents, including Monday’s attack, in which Tasers would have made a difference. … Continue reading »

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Potentially hazardous chemical suicide in Berkeley called for collaborative response, cautious approach

Kustu
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The death by chemical suicide earlier this week of a former UC Berkeley professor left many in the community reeling with disbelief.

Berkeleyside’s revelation that the person found dead in a room at the Berkeley City Club was Sydney Kustu, who killed herself on her 71st birthday using a potentially deadly chemical called sodium azide, was shocking to those who had known her, including neighbors and friends who remembered her as “friendly,” “kind” and “generous.” The nature of the death was also so unusual that it prompted many who had not known her to take pause. … Continue reading »

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