The current debate over the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner provides us a lens through which to view the broader problems of our juvenile and criminal systems. In both respects, we find ourselves focusing on what might be the proper “responses” to failings in these systems. As the debate moves from the streets to policy forums, the best focus for all concerned would be on preventing the need for a response as opposed to which response. While requiring police to wear body cameras and to receive better training, including training for proven community policing strategies, should reduce the incidences of tragedies arising from antagonistic encounters between police and citizens suspected of criminal activity, we can all conclude that it would be better for all concerned to prevent the need for a response in the first place.
Today, we have as good or better science for preventing mental illness than we did with Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine in 1954. His study only showed reduction in antibodies for a few thousand of kids. Today, we have scores, if not hundreds, of studies showing we can actually avert, reduce or even prevent mental illnesses —and not by just one method.