The Corner

Law & the Courts

Eric Casebolt and the Emotional Toll of Police Work

In response to Battling Over Brown

In an earlier post I posed the question of why Eric Casebolt, the now–former police officer in McKinney, Texas, was alone among the officers at the infamous pool party who conducted himself unprofessionally. Now we may have an explanation. In a Wednesday press conference, Casebolt’s attorney, Jane Bishkin, revealed that prior to answering the call about the party, Casebolt had responded to two incidents that were especially trying. In the first of these, a man had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in front of his children. Casebolt consoled the widow and assisted in photographing the body. And after that, he was called to a scene where a teenage girl was threatening to kill herself by jumping from the roof of her parents’ home. Casebolt calmed the girl and the situation was resolved successfully. “The nature of these two suicide calls took an emotional toll on Eric Casebolt,” Ms. Bishkin told reporters. “With all that had happened that day, he allowed his emotions to get the better of him.”

A police officer takes on many sorrows over the years, and speaking for myself, I can say that few of these sorrows have affected me more profoundly than the suicides, a tragedy to which my own family has not been immune. Casebolt’s frayed emotions do not excuse his behavior at the pool party; a police officer is obligated to conduct himself as a professional regardless of his emotional state. But our knowledge of his experiences just prior to the videotaped incident should inform our judgment of him. In the heavily fraught incidents that preceded the party call, Casebolt acted with care and compassion, performing at his best under demanding circumstances. Minutes later he performed at his worst, though sadly for him, only this last incident was recorded and broadcast to the world.

As his attorney said, Casebolt allowed his emotions to get the better of him, a lapse for which he has paid with the loss of his career and the prospect of an uncertain future. I don’t excuse his behavior, but I understand it better now than I did when I wrote about it earlier. I wish him well.

— Jack Dunphy is the nom de cyber of a police officer in Southern California.


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