The Care and Handling of Children

Jacob Gocheski was a teen with issues, which was why he went to school at the Parsons Child and Family Center. To get there, he took a bus, but the driver wasn’t comfortable with this troubled kid as a passenger, and so the Rotterdam police were called in. From the Albany Times Union:

Police were called after the driver said he felt he could not safely transport Gocheski to school at Parsons Child and Family Center, “based on threats that the student made in an aggressive manner,” police said in the release.

According to his attorney, who likely revealed far too much about a minor’s condition than discretion would have suggested,

the teenager’s medications were being adjusted at the time, limiting his ability to move. He has been diagnosed with multiple emotional disorders, including Tourette syndrome, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and pervasive developmental disorder.

So the teen had issues.  The driver had issues with the teen, and for reasons unexplained, the driver decided that it was necessary to seek the aid of the cops to remove this young man from the bus. What follows is painful to watch.

Though the video is only 1:50, the police spent about 15 minutes talking to Gocheski, trying to get him to leave the bus on his own accord.  Their efforts appear to be perfectly reasonable, if unsuccessful. Indeed, in dealing with children with significant emotional and intellectual disabilities, processing information under pressure can be difficult if not impossible.

As much as one might hope that police would possess this level of sophistication in dealing with troubled children, it’s likely to exceed reasonable expectations.  They can’t know how to deal with every person, every problem, that exists in society.  As opposed to the blind or deaf, whose issues are sufficiently self-evident that even the stupidest cop should be capable of appreciating them, emotional and intellectual challenges tend to be far more elusive to understand.

But then, is it really necessary that the police have a firm grasp on the problems of a disabled teen before breaking his arm?

Naturally, the officers involved were immediately absolved of any wrongdoing, though the same can’t be said of the young man.

The incident unfolded on the morning of Oct. 9, 2013 in the driveway of the teenager’s Rotterdam home and came to light late Friday in a news release issued by Rotterdam Police Chief James Hamilton who said a review determined that “officers followed department protocol and procedures.”

In addition, police charged the teen, Jacob Gocheski, with obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, a misdemeanor.

While the police officers may not have known how best to handle the situation, there are a few things they knew with certainty.  They knew that he had not harmed anyone. They knew there were two big, burley cops and one teenaged boy. They knew he suffered from some sort of disability, as he was a student at Parsons. They knew that they had the ability to physically harm this child.  They knew that the 15 minutes spent trying to persuade him to do as they directed hadn’t worked, and they knew that they didn’t want to spend any more time trying.

And so, they broke Jacob Gocheski’s arm.

The officers involved, Sgt. Daniel Ryan and Officer Ronald Armstrong, tried to reason with Gocheski before they decided to physically remove him.  The conversation went like this:

Ryan tried to engage Gocheski, who sat in silence, with his head down. “What are we going to do here?” Ryan asked. “You can either walk off the bus, or we can drag you off the bus, strap you on a stretcher and take you to Ellis Hospital. You can walk off the bus like a young man or we can hog-tie you.”

Ryan added, “You’re making all these other kids late for school.”

“I don’t give a (expletive). I don’t give a (expletive),” Gocheski said.

“If we have to fight, someone might get hurt,” Armstrong said.

For many, this would appear to show that the officers did all they could to convince Gocheski to go peaceably. Had he just complied, he never would have been harmed. If only he listened. If only he did as he was told.

Disabled children don’t want to be disabled. They don’t do it on purpose, any more than a blind person chooses not to see. Reasoning may be a viable way of dealing with someone who doesn’t suffer from emotional and intellectual disabilities, and most people reading this discussion would see this as sufficiently clear that no one, no one at all, could have not understood that failure to comply would bring unfortunate and harmful consequences.

Disabled children, however, are not “most people.” Be happy that you don’t have to live in Jacob Gocheski’s head. Be happy that you understood the officers’ message. But to Gocheski, it was no different than ordering a deaf person to hear. It just doesn’t process.

For all the problems facing the officers, and facing Gocheski, though, there is one thing that simply cannot be explained. Why did they need to employ the level of force that two big, burly cops are capable of, and break his arm?

Regardless of whether he was disabled, or defiant, or troubled, it was not true that someone had to get hurt.  This could have ended without incident, without the arm of a child being broken.  As the trope goes, do it for the children. Don’t hurt them just because you can.

25 comments on “The Care and Handling of Children

  1. rafiv

    This is disgusting. As you noted, children struggling with emotional deficits cannot respond appropriately, and must be treated differently from their peers- let alone an adult. If the child had became violent and needed to be restrained, the use of limited force would be warranted, as much to protect the child as others. But not here. Not under these conditions. And the Department’s support of the officers and levying of charges simply adds insult to injury. Hopefully his juvenile counsel will raise holy hell. Those that work in my state sure would.

  2. John Barleycorn

    ~Northern Rivers Family Services offers experts in a wide range of fields related to children, families, mental health, and human services management. These experts are available for print and broadcast interviews, guest commentary and analysis, as well as presentations to community groups and organizations.

    For further information, please contact the Communications Department at
    (518) 426-xxxx.~

    I wonder if the Albany PD would fit under community organization or if they are more like a community group?

    That all being said I call BS on this story being posted by our esteemed host without all the facts and information especially considering the apparent fact that the child’s mother was on scene for the duration of the incident which adds an entirely new level of complexity to things.

    And just because there is a fucking shit load of drugs involved in this story that many might gloss over as having no bearing on any of this which I would strongly disagree with, considering Gocheski’s own attorney is quoted as saying,

    “the teenager’s medications were being adjusted at the time, limiting his ability to move.”

    There is plenty of “blame” to go around amongst all the adults involved here.

    After-all due to your garden variety shit loads of “disorders”
    and Tourette Syndrome. One might speculate that not only was he having some particular drug induced neuron functions fucking with his ability to move but he was most likely also zombie fucking stoned like only big pharma can deliver on a handful or two of other drugs that do their thing and still allow him to get on the fucking bus in the first place.

    “I haven’t seen him quite this defiant in quite a long time,” a woman believed to be the mother was heard to say from outside the bus, captured by the bus video camera.

    You just have to cringe in absolute disbelief at his relatively sedate reaction to the pop of his arm snapping like a twig. I wonder if he herd it more than felt it?

    “Luibrand released an X-ray of the teenager’s left arm that showed a gruesome break and a shattered bone midway up the bicep” (fuck Luibrand and the kids parents BTW for releasing the x-ray to anyone but judge and jury.)

    Excuse the dark nature of the the suggestion but WTF?! The situational dynamics here are another excellent example of the need for practical deployment of the LEO Opiate Tazer for those times when Mom has had enough and the Cops are late for lunch. Why fucking not?

    Under development as we speak by Pfizer & Less than Lethal Solutions. For them bumps in the road when the regular daily does is no longer having the desired effects during dosage matrix realignment by the parents and their children’s physicians and some fucking idiot figures the
    P O L I C E are best community group to call when a mellow chill cries out for the all the way to blissfully compliment chill for the unresponsive or noncompliant in your otherwise defiant, disabled, or troubled child and the rest of the world needs to get on with the regularly scheduled programming.

    As far as the behavior and interest level or lack there of by his brother, another unidentified student, and the buses aide in the back of the bus I have no comment other than to say I found that dynamic nearly as spooky as the sound of the snapped limb.

    Fucked up deal all around but in my opinion a piss poor choice of a post by our esteemed host to get across the cops should be more patient and not break big pharmas zombie children’s arms when Mom can’t get the kid off the bus message.

    See you all at the Albany PD community awareness luncheons highlighting speakers from Northern Rivers Family Services who will be discussing children, families, mental health, and human services management every Tuesday for a month.

    The food should be excellent as majors from big pharma are sponsoring the event each week. They will also be making a 10K donation to both the Albany PD and Parsons Child and Family Center.

    Should prove to be an outstanding networking event for many of you.

    1. SHG Post author

      As for pharma, who knows what role, if any, that played? But even if it did, so what? People with illnesses take medications. People taking medications are still allowed to make it off the bus without a broken arm. As for mom, moms aren’t always a whole lot smarter than, well, cops.

      Even so, I bet mom did not say, “just break the little bastard’s arm if you want, guys. I gotta pee, so just break something already and let’s get outta here.”

      1. RAFIV

        “That all being said I call BS on this story being posted by our esteemed host without all the facts and information especially considering the apparent fact that the child’s mother was on scene for the duration of the incident which adds an entirely new level of complexity to things.”

        What is this new layer of complexity? Assume Mother could not calm her child, how does this justify the decision to use force? If she knew her son may be having an adverse reaction to his medication, wouldn’t this be all the more reason for restraint on the part of law enforcement?

        1. SHG Post author

          It’s unclear whether mom was present or not (it kinda looked like her, they said), but regardless, it in no way justifies breaking a kid’s arm. If she was present, it’s completely irrelevant to the excessive force.

          1. pml

            Pretty clear to me since this happened in the driveway of his home. Quote from the Times Union.

            “The incident unfolded on the morning of Oct. 9, 2013 in the driveway of the teenager’s Rotterdam home”

            1. SHG Post author

              Because all the neighborhood mothers wouldn’t come out when a couple of police cruisers show up? It probably was, but it’s still not material to what happened.

            2. pml

              Since the bus has a built-in Video camera, what will be interesting is being able to see the whole video from the time the bus pulls up until after the incident is over, not just an edited version of the cops talking to the kid.

            3. SHG Post author

              It would, in order to know what the cops were told (assuming it’s on the video, which may not be the case) and what they said afterward, but then, it wouldn’t because it would be about 15 minutes of your life lost.

        2. John Barleycorn

          Rant number two ready for deployment…

          I guess I was pondering among other possibilities that it might have been the mother who called the cops in the first place after the bus driver perhaps knocked on her door and told her to get Jacob off the bus for whatever it is he had to say to the bus driver and she was unsuccessful and figured calling the cops was a good idea? Or perhaps she was late for work and told the bus driver to fuck off and just do his job and not worry about or fuss over Jacob and his remarks and the bus driver called the cops and exaggerated a bit?

          Perhaps she tagged teamed with the cops during the “tense and arduous” negotiations with Jacob and gave up after the third round a whole twelve minutes in and told Jacob if he didn’t listen to them this time she was going to have him arrested? Then she sauntered off the bus and told the cops they might have to restrain him like they sometimes have to do at school.

          I don’t know, you don’t know, and Jacobs attorney is only releasing the X-rays at this juncture. According to his web site he also specialized in plane crashes among a few other things. Not that has a damned thing to do with anything either.

          But it is my uninformed judgement that the mother was in all probability the most likely candidate at hand to successfully get Jacob off the bus without any violence whatsoever and the cops should have been playing a back up roll off the bus at her (arrest me then) insistence. And failing to make that happen it was her duty to make damn sure Cop Leverage and Cop Backstop were aware Jacob was most likely not in anyway whatsoever seeing things including time and other sorted bits of reality as they were before their physics experiment didn’t go according to plan and Mr. Lever LEO underestimated Jacob’s stubbornness and strength to resist the cops reality and strength and not immediately comply when being forced to put his hands behind his back and things went snap because when the cops asked mom if there was anything they should know about her son before they boarded the bus, she told them to fuck off and her sons medical condition and records were none of their or the bus drivers business and the bus driver should be fired for even calling them in the first place.

          I have no idea but those are just a few potential complexities.

          Anyway blah blah blah. I have no idea what went down all I saw were two cops unnecessarily but most likely not purposefully breaking a young mans arm for no good reason at all.

          Yeah, I am with our esteemed hosts on Mom not likely to have instructed the cops to break his arm. Nor would I, or am I assuming she could have necessarily prevented it.

          Who knows about the rest but in the end, one way or another, we are all climbing Jacobs Ladder and without a doubt society and science still have a very long journey ahead when it comes to awareness, understanding, treatment, and living with mental illness (for lack of a better word).

          Anyway, I think this example was not the best choice to demonstrate excessive force used against citizens suffering from mental illness by the P O L I C E which our esteemed host is very well aware is an everyday, hundreds of times a day, occurrence and lets not talk about our nations incarcerated mentally ill population and the violence they experience.

          Granted it is a timely bit of news and our esteemed host can post whatever he wants and I appreciate him again touching on mental illness and law enforcement. But there is far more wickedness visited by law enforcement on the mentally ill daily than this post represents and I think he posted it partly, just because they broke his arm on video which is very disturbing, he’s a suburban kid with a mother and not homeless. Pretty much the same reason the Albany newspaper ran with it.

          Anyway, not to be ass or make excuses for the cops but that same arm most likely would not have been broken 149 out of 150 times had the cops repeated the exact same haste and level of force to cuff the kid 150 times.

          And other than breaking the kids arm (which granted is unacceptable, even 1 in 150 times) and being radically hasty the cops were all things considered civil if not attempting to actually care about Jacob’s wellbeing even if their main concern was get the fuck off the bus.

          Results of course would vary depending on how many and what types of “mental illness” pharmaceuticals the cops may or may not have also been on at the time and LEO Leverages understanding of technique.

          So let me just leave you with, I think on nothing more than a hunch, there is more adult “mental illness” and frustration going around in this incident than just Mr. Lever and Mr. Backstop and this video and story is a poor, sensationalized, and unrepresentative example of the unnecessary wickedness and physical violence bestowed upon children and adults suffering from mental illness by LEO’s and corrections personnel in this country countless times every day purposefully due to sure frustration if not some collective mental illness on behalf of society and our esteemed host should have took a pass on this particular example to make his point as it far too tame and I figured I would que up a rant and let him know my thoughts.

          1. SHG Post author

            Seriously? You expect me to read this TL;dr rant?

            Aside from your rank speculation (much of which isn’t likely, but also isn’t particularly relevant), the cops were doing a great job right up until they broke the kid’s arm. And if they weren’t up to the task of getting him off the bus without breaking his arm, then the correct response was to find someone else who could, mother included.

            1. RAFIV

              I know I am an slacking today because I read your “Rant Part Deux” in its entirety. (Yea, I’m that desperate not to scan/Bates Stamp/Index). I just don’t see how any of that justifies the police breaking the arm of an obviously unwell young man when he was not engaged in a life and death struggle with them. Nothing justifies that level of force. Call an ambulance like almost every other rational LEO.

              Ok, SHG, I will stop feeding those who live under the bridge.

            2. RAFIV

              It’s my in-office “catch up” day: catch-up on mail, filing, scanning, and scheduling. On the upside, I have work to complain about so it could be much worse. Besides, the lattes at this Starbucks rule. j/k

            3. william doriss

              Barleycorn says “our esteemed host” more times than Carl David Ceder says, “don’t forget to bring your first-aid kit”. Ha. Not Barleycorn’s best day; he must be snowed in somewhere upstate.

            4. SHG Post author

              When he says “our esteemed host,” he means it the same way a lawyer means it when he says to a judge, “with all due respect.”

            5. John Barleycorn

              I couldn’t agree more.

              With finding someone who could get him off the bus including himself after giving him however much time he needed all by himself to think about it if necessary.

              But my hunch tells me that not one adult including his mother were ready to deploy the wait the kid out option.

              Way too radical and enabling.

            6. Leslie E. Packer, PhD

              Thanks for posting this, Scott, as I wasn’t aware of it.

              The minute the police showed up, this was pretty much doomed to failure as most police officers simply do not have the skills to deal with these situations. So let’s back up and ask why police were even called. Did the driver contact the child’s school and ask the staff to talk him through how to handle this? Could the child’s school counselor have gotten on the phone with the student? Did Mom come on the bus and say, “Ya know what? I can tell you’re really struggling from the medication changes. Why don’t you come back in the house and I’ll let you stay home until you feel better?”

              There are so many ways this could have been handled without injuring the teen, charging him with a misdemeanor for having a medical problem, and stigmatizing him in front of his peers. But it starts with the school training transport and the mother knowing what to do when her child is “stuck” or having a really bad neurochemical day. And it starts with police knowing when to say, “We don’t want to make this situation worse and our presence may escalate things.”

  3. justin

    I don’t have much to add to this post. We have all seen our clients, or our children, fighting the fight inside their heads and hearts.

    Why would this child want to feel so sad or angry or disoriented? He wouldn’t. No one wants to have mental illness.

    Keep us posted.

  4. DanQ

    Knowing now that presenting an emotionally disturbed individual the [false] choice of walking off a bus or being hog tied is a departmentally approved method to coerce compliance, I have to reset my thinking on a few things.

    I’m not so sure the I could resist the urge to stay put given the same set of threats. Maybe I need my medications adjusted.

  5. Canvasback

    That’s funny, Officer “Armstrong” was in on the deed. Looks like he watches a lot of WWF. Notice how the kid had a coherent, intelligent response to the event. He’s not a dummy. He’s probably been told he’s a problem so often he’s started to believe it and just shuts down in public. Those meds are a scattershot attempt at a solution.

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