Death Ruled Homicide: Poor Training Killed Tanisha Anderson, Not Racism

With her death officially ruled a homicide, the controversial Tanisha Anderson case has served as more fuel on an already burning fire.

The death of the Cleveland, Ohio, woman is just one more controversy that calls into question why America's police seems to kill unarmed individuals with disturbing regularity.

Protests continue to rage across the nation over the perceived freedom with which law enforcement agents, those sworn to protect life, are easily able to take it away, and with little consequence.

As such, there are some who may think that Tanisha Anderson was the victim of racist, brutal police officers.

However, there is something else at play here: Tanisha Anderson was a mentally ill woman who was in the custody of men who clearly lacked proper experience and training in dealing with mental health issues. Police across the United States have a terrible track record when it comes to persons with mental illness.

According U.S. News and world Report, police officers have been previously accused of using excessive force when dealing with persons who have mental health issues. In some unfortunate instances, those confrontations have been fatal. Tanisha Anderson, unfortunately, fell into this established pattern of improper response to persons who are not criminal, but rather have mental health issues.

Anderson was reportedly restrained by the police in the prone position while having a mental health episode. Tanisha eventually went limp and lost consciousness. She died while in police custody. According to the medical examiner, Tanisha Anderson's death was caused by "sudden death associated with physical restraint in a prone position."

The 37-year-old woman was a schizophrenic according to her family. This death could have been prevented with proper training.

During a press conference a few weeks ago, the family of Tanisha Anderson requested that a thorough investigation be done as to how and why she died. Her family members also asked that Cleveland police officers be better trained for such situations in the future.

This is hardly an unreasonable request. However, funding for mental health treatment continues to be cut across the United States. This money would have paid for things like proper training for police officers, or perhaps alternative agencies that could be relied on to respond to emergency situations or potentially dangerous encounters involving someone having a mental health episode.

Those who suffer from mental health issues are at a greater risk than the average person to be a victim of violence. Tragically, Tanisha Anderson suffered a violent end at the hands of people who were supposed to protect her from that outcome.

Had proper training and services been made available, Tanisha Anderson would probably still be alive.

[Image via CBS News]