Two month ago, I wrote this: “Officer Beemster reports: ‘I was dispatched to the listed location to investigate a report of a disturbance involving one of the clinic's clients. [One] victim stated that the [other] victim has repeatedly come to the clinic and caused a disturbance. Today, the [second] victim refused to leave. The [first] victim stated that the [second] victim has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was prescribed the medication Abilify for that condition. The [first] victim stated that the [second] victim stopped taking his medication several months ago and that led to his deteriorating state.
‘The [second] victim was quiet and sat motionless on a couch in the clinic. He appeared fixated on people wanting to hurt him. “People want to hurt me,” he said, “...they do things that are kind of evil… they assault me.” He stated that this has been going on for years. “Basically,” he added, “I'm a little confused. Sounds weird. If you go along with them If I go along with them… I'm going to get hurt badly. People… are taking over my mind.” The victim could not elaborate.’
“I will begin by pointing out that the makers of the antipsychotic drug Abilify maintain that the proper treatment of schizophrenia requires not only regular consumption of their powerful drug but also ‘education and psychotherapy.’ By the looks of this report, all that the community clinic can offer people suffering from schizophrenia and other mental disorders is one part of this treatment: drugs. If the victim needs more, if they have nowhere else to go for help, if he/she causes a ‘mental disturbance,’ then the only other option is to call the police, who, as this report makes clear, must perform a role that they are not trained to perform—that of the psychiatrist.
Two weeks ago I read this in the notes to Hegel’s The Philosophy Right: “Hegel uses the term ‘police’ (Polizei) in what seems to us a very broad sense, defining the term as ‘the state, in so far as it relates to civil society’; “Police” is here the most suitable name, even though in ordinary use it has a more limited significance’ (VPR IV, 587). The ‘police’ in this sense includes all the functions of the state which support and regulate the activities of civil society with a view to the welfare of individuals. Thus it includes public works (e.g. highways, harbors, and waterways, all economic regulatory agencies, and also what we would call the ‘welfare’ system. In 1820, however, this broad meaning of Polezei was not in the least technical or idiosyncratic. The word in German originally had the broad meaning Hegel gives it, and in the Prussian General Legal Code of 1794, Polizei includes building regulation, fire protection, public health, and relief for the poor. As a consequence, the term Polizeistaat was used by Fichte with no derogatory connotations whatever (also occasionally by Hegel with positive connotations). (For Germans of Hegel’s day, the meaning of Polizeistaat was perhaps closer to our term ‘welfare state’ than to our term ‘police state’.) Only later in the 19th century was the meaning of Polizei limited to the maintenance of peace and order, ‘law enforcement’ in a narrower sense. In several places, Hegel emphasizes the derivation of the word Polezei from the Greek politeia (‘constitution’) along with differences between ancient Greek and modern constitutions which derive from the modern principle of subjective freedom.”
This is what I’m thinking today: My response to Officer Beemster’s report on the mentally ill person was wrong. I should not have been appalled by the fact that a police officer was performing the task of a psychiatrist, instead of doing what police officers are supposed to do (“the maintenance of peace and order”). My response should have been this: Police officers have to broaden their role in society. Like the police in Hegel’s day, they must not only enforce the law, but be able to do “building regulation, fire protection, public health, and relief for the poor”—and, for that matter, psychiatry. The ideal police officer would be a total professional; one who can fully function in a wider area of the world he/she polices. Instead of a simple police academy, the officer has to obtain a university-level doctorate before he/she is permitted to patrol our streets with a lethal weapon.