LaDonna Paris was in the throes of a manic bipolar episode when Tulsa police kicked in the door of the bathroom where Paris had locked herself, knocked her to the ground and handcuffed her.
The 70-year-old great-grandmother, who kept repeating to herself that police wanted to ᴋɪʟʟ her, was bleeding from an injury to her face resulting from the altercation that occurred on Oct. 25. Officers pulled Paris, who is Black, off the floor and escorted her from the store where she had taken refuge nearly four hours earlier.
Five months after Paris’ arrest, her son posted an edited version of body camera footage that he requested from police. The video, which has more than 63,000 views on Youtube, prompted public outcry over officers’ treatment of Paris.
Scenes depicting Officer Ronni Carrocia, who has been with the department for four years, taunting Paris before police forced their way into the bathroom drew the most outrage. “Do you want to get tased?” Carrocia said as she leaned against the door firing her ѕтᴜп ɡᴜп.
As Paris yells “don’t do it” from behind the locked door, Carrocia is seen laughing.
In response to public scrutiny, the department launched an internal investigation late last month and released a statement that said in part, “The overall actions of the Officers and the way in which the call was handled is within the policies of the Tulsa Police Department.”
An Oklahoma Watch review of Tulsa police policies, hours of body camera footage and interviews with law enforcement experts raise questions about the department’s stance and who these policies are protecting.
Policies outlining the department’s values, use of fᴏгᴄᴇ and treatment of people suffering from mental illness conflict with footage of officers calling Paris names, threatening and bullying her, and belittling her mental state.
Paris escaped the encounter with minor physical injuries but interactions between people in crisis and police can have fɑтɑʟ ᴄᴏпѕᴇզᴜᴇпᴄᴇѕ.Oklahoma law enforcement have ᴋɪʟʟᴇԀ at least 53 people who exhibited signs of mental illness from 2013 to 2021, according to data from the Mapping Police Vɪᴏʟᴇпᴄᴇ project. Eleven of those Ԁᴇɑтһѕ occurred in Tulsa.
Lack of education can lead officers to misinterpret a situation or trigger someone who is reacting to past trauma.
Nearly one-third of Tulsa police have been trained in crisis intervention. None of the officers who responded to Paris had participated in the weeklong, voluntary training.
When incidents like this occur, the public can file complaints. Internal affairs can investigate and make recommendations. But the decision whether to discipline the officers and how lies with one man, Chief Wendell Franklin.
Advocates at some of the state’s largest mental health agencies are refusing to comment about the incident out of fear that scrutiny could make police less willing to work with them.
Rev. Marlin Lavanhar is Paris’ pastor and has known her for 15 years. He was among 20 residents who asked city council members to approve more law enforcement oversight in light of Paris’ treatment by officers.
“If that’s the policies of the Tulsa police then the policies need to change,” Lavanhar said. “If that’s OK then we know that the police can’t police themselves,” Marlin said, “and we need an office of independent monitor so that we can have somebody who is policing the police.”
Oklahoma Watch first contacted Franklin’s office for an interview on April 14. Staff in Franklin’s office said he did not have availability in his schedule for an interview the following week.
A department spokesman refused to comment on the incident citing the investigation.Jeffery Pierce led Oklahoma City Police Department’s mental health unit. The retired captain said police shouldn’t be responding to mental health crises like this one. But until Oklahomans’ access to mental health care improves, departments need to train officers to handle these calls, he said, which includes fostering a culture of compassion and empathy.
While the officers who arrested Paris followed some protocols, Pierce said, other actions contradict Tulsa police policies.
Watch the video below: