When news of the arrest of Terri White (The Oklahoma Commissioner of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services) hit the media circuit, White went into 'damage control' mode. She made several statements to select media outlets and provided a narrative of her interstate advocacy of her department's Crisis Intervention Training. This was a weak effort to deflect from her own gross failure to put her own CIT training into practice. We have no indication from law enforcement that there was any intoxication involved in this incident. Only Terri White's vague implication that her brother was drunk. Here is the officer's report.
Now, for any family dealing with a drug-abusing member, it is very difficult to continue suffering the pain that their personal behavior inflicts on the whole family... especially when special family events are forever ruined.
Having said that, it's still very disappointing that White did not own up to her own dangerous behavior. And for the Walton County Sheriff's Dept. It was completely unacceptable that she would seek to embarrass Sheriff Adkinson's department. I know this is not how White wants her department to be a convenient scapegoat.
Sheriff Adkinson responded...
“In this situation, it's very apparent Ms. White is either unwilling or unable to accept the results of her actions. The simple truth is that she escalated this situation by berating and then the approaching the victim. The victim was seated when she approached him and threw water in his face. This behavior is not what we would expect from professional adults in positions of trust.
After the media discovered the incident, Ms. White made statements implying her arrest would not have been made in Oklahoma. I doubt that to be the case. Ms. White seems to believe her position of authority places her above approach. I would suggest to you, that it is this attitude that resulted in her sitting in the Walton County Jail.
The arrest was not dismissed on merit, but because this is a misdemeanor charge and all parties involved live in Oklahoma and were unwilling to cooperate. No one is ever the bad guy in their own story.
This call was handled to the letter of the law. When news broke, it was have been respectful of her to accept her role in the incident and move on. Not point fingers and place blame on our office.” - Sheriff Michael Adkinson jr.
"Ms. White was upset that the brother was not coming to dinner and was on his computer. She began a verbal altercation with him, kind of cursing and berating him and at some point, he said something back to her while seated. She goes up from the table, walked over, took a glass of water, got in his face and splashed it into his face. He stood up, pushed her out of his face. She continued to verbally berate him and get into his personal space. At some point, she called 911.
But Sheriff Michael Adkinson said his deputies handled the situation appropriately.
"I mean the reality of it is nobody is the bad guy in their own story, right? She is the person in charge of her actions. She has suggested we need de-escalation training and I actually think de-escalation training is a wonderful training for every police department or sheriff's office," said Adkinson. "However, I think she should take some of her own medicine in this regard because that's not a very professional conduct to get up and go splash water in somebody's face while they are seated. It's childish behavior, she has had accountability for her own actions, as well. So the person responsible was Ms. White. We stand by the actions of our deputy. He is required by Florida Law, if he can determine who the primary aggressor is, to make an arrest. And in this case, that was clearly Ms. White. In fact, there is no dispute as to what happened. All the witness statements and Ms. White's own statement say exactly the same thing."
The Florida State Attorney's office also released a statement backing the actions of the Sheriff's Office and the arresting deputy, stating, "Deputy Sheriff Schultz conducted a solid investigation and made what appeared to be the correct choice to arrest white for the crime that was committed. I ask that future investigative decisions, to arrest or not arrest, not be based on the outcome of this sole case."
Adding, "Due to the lack of cooperation, locale of the witnesses and victim, and this being a misdemeanor charge," the case was dismissed.
"When you talk about domestic violence, we always try to find that middle ground that looks after the well being of the people and parties involved. These things have a long history of not being investigated fully. That doesn't mean every domestic violence case ends in an arrest. What it does mean is we have to do our due diligence and not walk it off," Adkinson said. "The truth of the matter is she is embarrassed and we certainly understand that. I'm not in the business to embarrass her. But I would suggest that had she accepted responsibility and moved on, this would be over. But the truth of the matter is that is not adult, professional behavior. I expect this behavior from children, not adults."
Sheriff Adkinson points out his deputies' main goal is to mitigate the potential violence or risks in each individual case.
He also said although throwing water may seem minor, that type of behavior can escalate a situation and that is what they ultimately are trying to prevent."
but not okay for a man to meet force with force?
Law enforcement is correct to prosecute the initiator. Oklahoma law enforcement should follow the Florida policy. Maybe they could have allowed Terri White to spend the night somewhere else, but if if that condo is booked to her (personally) then they may have simply believed it to be safer for the community, if this tourist were to face her assault charges. If someone responds to a physical contact in a manner that merely neutralizes the hostile aggressor without exacting retribution (hitting back), cops may see that as justified. Keep in mind that this county deals with rowdy spring break tourists and treats vacationers like the Whites in a manner similar to irresponsible college kids.
Since Mr. White stayed in his private lodging, cops will not charge him with public intoxication (again; if he had been drinking). They will encourage him to 'go to bed' and sleep it off.
I empathize with Terri White's narrative of extreme frustration with her 'loved one's' alleged substance abuse. Mr. White may need intervention and a treatment plan for recovery. Terri White & her family may have been repeatedly harmed emotionally by the substance abuse problems.
The most concerning issue with this, is the horrible example that Terri White instinctively demonstrated. For her to claim to be a teacher of CIT, while illegally assaulting the impaired person, is a high form of hypocrisy that she needs to own up to. Oklahoma people respect humble contriteness. Oklahoma empathizes with families who have been hit with the scourge of mentally impaired misbehavior. Now that Mr. White's issues are being aired out publicly, Terri White may become liberated from the secrecy which often leads society to ignorantly blame the family (who are the victims).