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Who's To Blame?
People always want to blame police when something goes awry in custody, as in the sad case of Carol Ann Gotbaum, the woman who died while handcuffed and shackled in a holding room in the Phoenix airport. I hadn't paid more than cursory attention to the case, and then, this morning I read this on

According to the police report released Thursday, Gotbaum's husband, Noah, called the airport several times that day, trying to reach his wife or the airport police, telling them they didn't know the circumstances involving his wife, whom he described as suicidal.

If this is true, what form of expediency and cost savings allows you to send a suicidal (or at the very least, apparently disturbed) woman across the country all by her lonesome?

I looked on, and a round-trip flight from New York to Tucson, Gotbaum's intended destination, can be had for $289. Of course, one might have to hire a babysitter or leave the kiddies with grandma, which can be inconvenient, and even cost a few bucks.

The family has retained a lawyer in Phoenix, but perhaps assigning responsibility and blame starts at home? (Then again, there isn't a whole lot of money in suing yourself for negligence.)

Posted by aalkon at October 6, 2007 1:07 PM


Yeah, I passed through Sky Harbor twice this week and that whole incident kept haunting me while I was busy repeatedly paging "Hugh G. Rection" on the airport's snazzy new visual messaging system between flights. But then I somewhat enjoy being forcefully shackled by brusque authority figures so it probably wouldn't've ended quite so unhappily for me. Though I haven't read any of the follow-ups on it -- I think I just figured it was some sort of 12 Monkeys thing.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at October 6, 2007 10:10 AM

There can be police abuses, and distortions in how a story is presented in the media. But, numerous people are not allowed to board flights every day. The fact that this woman went apeshit when this happened to her suggests that she should not have been traveling alone.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 6, 2007 10:29 AM

Amy's right, and the family's going to get millions anyway. It would be great if everyone in the air with the woman on that afternoon could do a class action against the family for putting them as risk, but it's not likely....

Favorite line in TM, from Pitt: "Your process is all fucked up!"

Posted by: Crid at October 6, 2007 1:03 PM

The cops released some info few hours ago.

She was arrested around 250 something pm, she was pronounced dead at 330 pm and they are claiming that transcript logs show the husband first started calling in after she was already dead.

So I have a few question, if you have the cash to send someone across the country to the cottonwood rehab center cant you hire a babysiter for 12 hours or hire someone to escort her?

Especially given his 'concern' over her mental state.

It has been reported that he was on the phone with her just before her arrest, so why did it take him narly two hours to first call police(assuming the police are telling the truth about wht time hubby called in)

And finally if the woman died within 40 minutes of being arrested, refused to identify herself or cooperate with police before her death, and all warnings about her mental state came in 70 minutes after she died - why is eveyerone so upset with the police?

Posted by: lujlp at October 6, 2007 1:28 PM

check out this link, it has small blurbs and numerious updates and a video of her arrest by police

Posted by: lujlp at October 6, 2007 1:29 PM

She's the daugher in law of NYC's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum. Even if her husband stayed home with the kids, why wasn't there anyone else to deliver her to rehab?

Ofr course, the HuffPo blogger ties it all to post 9/11.

Posted by: KateCoe at October 6, 2007 9:36 PM

Thanks, Kate - what a ridiculous idiot. I liked this person's comment:

If someone threatened your child - who 'ya going to call? Batman, Superman, Clintonman, Obamaman or the local Policeman?

My local police are great. I would venture that those who are yelping about police battery don't know any cops and never have the occasion to interact with any. There are bad apples in every line of work, but cops protect the rest of us and deserve our thanks, same as soldiers and firemen.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 7, 2007 12:58 AM

Yes -- all sadomasochistic levity aside, I had a few encounters with law enforcement in Phoenix when I lived there and they were always very sweet to me. And when I used to give platelets over at Kaiser Hollywood, noticably often the guy on the bed next to me would be some do-gooding holder of the Thin Blue Line. Even my criminal defence attorney-by-day consigliere gives the cops their props when he's had a couple of drinks. Come to think of it, I don't personally know anyone who deals with the core gears of Civilization professionally who doesn't unambiguously respect the police. Really, is "Police: Good or Bad?" even an issue except for drunken college college students fighting the power and limousine liberals with a flipbook of double-parking tickets under their wiper?

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at October 7, 2007 9:48 AM

Yay for you for donating platelets.

My local community policing officer really works to help the homeless. She's the antithesis of the negative portrayals of cops by these ignoranuses.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 7, 2007 10:21 AM

Paul, I find the "Cops are all bad!" attitude to be a useful canary in the coal mind for detecting people who resent authority to the point where it makes much of their life dysfunctional. I'm not talking about questioning authority - I'm talking about behaving so badly whenever you think that ANYONE may have any authority where you're concerned that you wreck your lives and wreak havoc on those who love you. I like to stay away from those people, myself.

As for Ms. Gotbaum, I am very sorry for her three children. However, given that none of the other adults in the situation appear to have thought for a second about the well-being of the passengers, flight attendants and pilots that they were merrily boxing up in a flying tin can with a suicidal woman, I really can't spare any compassion for them. Grandma or a babysitter could have stayed home with the kids and the husband could have delivered her to rehab, or vice versa. One does not have an inviolate right to fly, at least not on a commercial airline. It is entirely possible that the cops could have handled this better, but the cops should not have been dealing with this unaccompanied suicidal woman whose family had the resources and know-how to handle better.

Posted by: marion at October 7, 2007 11:41 AM

Oh, Christ, did I really spell defense with a "c"? I've been spending too much time in Perfidious Albion.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at October 7, 2007 11:53 AM

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