Mom: Cops need better mental health training after son’s fight with officers

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington mother says law enforcement needs more training to understand how to better deal with mentally ill people.

She is speaking out after officers got into a fight with her son Tuesday night and it was all caught on camera. This is a story that’s first on WWAY.

Barbara Farmer filed paperwork Tuesday to have her son committed for a mental evaluation.

When police arrived tried to take him in to custody, she says he started to run, so officers took him down.

“I told them, ‘Go ahead. Get him.’ I was right there. But I didn’t know that they were going to run behind him and throw him on the ground real hard like he did,” said Barbara Farmer.

Wilmington Police and New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputies are seen holding 35-year-old Hiram Farmer down on the ground.

In the video, you can see a deputy apparently punching farmer several times.

His mother and investigators say Wilmington Police officer tased Farmer, who they say bit an officer on the arm.

“They’re scared that everybody’s out to get them. And they’re going to retaliate. They’re going to try to defend themselves because they don’t know what’s going on in their head,” said Farmer.

Farmer says her son is bipolar and schizophrenic, and was off his medication during a two-year stay in jail that ended in September. Farmer’s mother says she is upset with how officers handled the situation because she says police know her son struggles with mental illness.

“They know how to talk to him,” Farmer said. “They would’ve talked to Hiram. All he would’ve done as got in the car with them and go to the hospital with them because they know him. They know that he has mental issues. They know how to talk with him. They know how to relate with him, but these two officers, they’re very aggressive.”

Farmer wants better training on handling people with mental illness.

“De-escalation is our ultimate goal. And compliance is our goal. We would much rather someone go voluntarily with us or to the hospital, or to seek help. And there are times where that’s just not possible,” said Wilmington Police Captain Rodney Dawson.

Dawson says nearly 100 Wilmington Police officers have gone through a 40-hour crisis intervention team training.

“And I think any time that you can empathize with whom you’re negotiating with or whom you’re dealing with, it’s going to work out better that you can understand, slightly, what they may be going through,” New Hanover County Sheriff’s Spokesman Lieutenant Jerry Brewer.

All patrol and jail deputies in New Hanover County also go through the training.
Brewer says many of them know Hiram Farmer, who has been arrested 48 times since 2000.

Farmer says her son can be violent during his arrests.

“They don’t know how to approach him and say, ‘Calm down. We’re going to take you to the hospital to be evaluated,'” said Farmer.

Farmer says she wants to work with law enforcement to get her son the help he needs.

WPD and the sheriff’s office say they will do internal reviews to see if officers violated any policies.

The sheriff’s office says the deputy who was bitten is okay.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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