A police sergeant in Southborough, Massachusetts, was allegedly stabbed in the back while interviewing a deranged man inside the town’s public safety building Monday night.
Sgt. James Deluca was taking an inventory of the suspect’s belongings when the unidentified man stabbed him in the back with a folding knife, WSBK-TV reported.
Authorities noted that Deluca had called for a mental health clinician to respond before he was attacked. The clinician recommended that the man receive further evaluation at the hospital.
The district attorney’s office reported that while “the knife penetrated the sergeant’s protective vest,” the material “likely prevented more serious injury.”
Deluca was transported to UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester, where he was treated for his injuries.
The suspect reportedly fled the building after stabbing Deluca, but was tracked down, arrested, and charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
The alleged attack is an ominous foreshadowing of what could happen if unarmed social workers are dispatched to mental health scenes instead of police.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, protesters across the country have demanded serious reforms to the way community policing is conducted in America.
In response, some municipalities have opted to reallocate police funding to various other community health and safety programs and have outlined plans to send unarmed social workers to certain nonviolent dispatch calls.
While the program sounds harmless enough, it makes little mention of the risks involved, which include physical injury to social workers who are unable to protect themselves should things turn violent.
After all, it seems unreasonable to assume that dispatch workers would not be able to assess with complete accuracy the potential of violence in a given situation.
In the instance involving Sgt. Deluca, the attack occurred within police headquarters, and the officers in the area were able to respond to the situation promptly to prevent further injury. If the attack had occurred elsewhere with fewer officers in the area, the situation could have been worse.
It should be noted that some municipalities, like Dallas, have rolled out pilot programs in which clinicians are accompanied by police when responding to certain dispatch calls and have reported success so far.