Michael Moates

Michael Moates

On Sept. 18, Pastor Kevin Tarver pinned a guest essay with the Denton Record-Chronicle expressing his dismay with the Denton Police Department. He also stated that we should send unarmed mental health experts into certain situations. He cites his son Darius Tarver’s case.

But there are many problems with his analysis. First, it would be unreasonable to send an unarmed mental health professional into the field without knowing the full aspect of the situation. In Darius Tarver’s case, he was armed with a weapon that had the potential to hurt people. He then used that weapon, which resulted in a police officer being stabbed.

Second, we must accept personal responsibility for our actions. Meaning, there was reason to believe that Darius Tarver was unstable. It is well documented that he was in a car accident that resulted in brain injuries. Individuals had noticed his unusual behavior.

We also must consider the officers attempted to deescalate the situation, and when that failed, they attempted to use non-lethal force to detain the subject. When the officers attempted to Taser the subject, he charged them with a weapon in his hand. He then got up and charged them a second time, leading to him being shot, ultimately resulting in his death.

But even after the subject charged at them with a weapon, after he stabbed a police officer, they still attempted to save his life. An officer can be heard in a video of the incident compassionately saying “stay with us.”

The pastor’s attempt to defend his son is an emotional plea, and it has no objectivity. Had this been two mental health professionals, they would likely be dead. But it wasn’t just an emotional plea, he released personal information on social media in an attempt to target the officers. He also openly admits that he used the fact he is a law enforcement officer to obtain evidence he was not entitled to.

It is important to note, medical professionals are trained to not enter a dangerous scene such as this one until a police officer has cleared the scene and established scene safety.

The solution here is not to send unarmed professionals into the field. The goal should be to send dually trained mental health/peace officers into the field. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement already recognizes mental health peace officers. To get this designation, they must be trained in mental illness, psychotic disorders (including delusional and hallucinational behavior), mood disorders, depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and a long list of other disorders.

Decisions about the future should not be made by individuals who are emotionally involved because it affects their ability to be objective. I feel for Mr. Tarver, but the officers had no other choice but to engage in the actions they took. It is tragic for everyone involved, and those officers will likely suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder for the rest of their lives.

MICHAEL MOATES is a mental health professional licensed by the state of Virginia. He has worked in various psychiatric facilities with mentally ill individuals. Prior to that, he worked as a behavior therapist. He is specifically trained in de-escalation training by the nationally recognized Crisis Prevention Institute and holds a certificate in psychological first aid from Johns Hopkins University.