Tanisha was a “straight-A student” who loved math, and had a knack for problem-solving. In high school she came up with a slogan for the local Drug Abuse Resistance Education project: “Don’t do drugs or they’ll do you.” It played on local television. By the time she began taking classes at Cleveland State University, she was hoping to get into broadcast journalism.
When the mental health problems surfaced in her 20’s, her mother remembers episodes beginning with intense anxiety; Tanisha would pace around a lot. She would flick the lights on and off. In her 20s, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on medication.
“I never had trouble getting Tanisha to the hospital,” at those times, Cassandra said. Tanisha was always aware of her surroundings and would simply agree to go. “She would always say, ‘Yes mom.’”
Years passed between hospitalizations and medication adjustments; much of the time Anderson was fully functional. For a period of about six years, she ran a daycare out of her mother’s home where she lived with her daughter. She taught the children their colors and numbers on flashcards. When the daycare finished, she helped her mother with chores, focused on raising her daughter and often enjoyed late-night taco-making sessions with Theresa (her brother’s partner).
What happened: November 13, Tanisha’s younger sister Jennifer said Tanisha was having one of her “bad days”. Wearing a nightgown and no shoes, 37 yr old Tanisha became disoriented and kept trying to leave the house. Joell Anderson (her brother) was the one who made the first 911 call. Instead of an ambulance, officers arrived, by then Tanisha had seemed to calm down. However the family had to call again, once again officers were dispatched instead of an ambulance.
This time, Detective Scott Aldridge, a seven-year veteran of the force, and his partner Brian Meyers responded to the call. They were more brusque and rude according to the family. They told the family to stay in the house and walked Anderson to their patrol car.
With her family watching from their family house in east Cleaveland, Tanisha was taken into police custody even though she had not committed a crime. She was simply having a mental health issue. She initially agreed to go to the hospital for an evaluation, but changed her mind and began to struggle with the officers. She was unarmed
The family said Tanisha was slammed onto the pavement and handcuffed. Anderson’s 16-year-old daughter, Mauvion, watched from a window as her mother died outside the home where they lived with Tanisha’s mother, Cassandra.
What happened next was disputed but within half an hour of the second police visit, Tanisha Anderson was lying on the pavement, handcuffed and not breathing. She arrived at the hospital, the coroner’s report says, in full cardiopulmonary arrest and could not be revived. The coroner ruled her death as a homicide aas a result of: “sudden death in association with physical restraint in a prone position in association with ischemic heart disease and bipolar disorder with agitation”.
The City of Cleveland settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Anderson’s family for 2.25 million dollars.
Anderson’s family filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio against the city and two police officers. The lawsuit accuses Cleveland police of excessive force, wrongful death and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A special grand jury chose not to indict the two Cleveland police officers in the death of Tanisha Anderson.
The city police union has maintained the officers acted properly.
Detective Aldridge has been accused of misconduct on the job. He has been suspended twice during his seven years with the police force. One suspension was related to his part in the chase that ended in a hail of 137 bullets and for which Brelo was acquitted of firing the last 15. (Aldridge never fired his weapon.)
The other suspension came in January 2012, when Aldridge violated the police division’s policy for Taser, use of force and ethics – after he witnessed a woman being tasered by another police officer and walked away, failing to call for any help for her.
The Cleveland police department released a statement claiming the officers had handcuffed her because she was resisting them. They said that once in the car, she began kicking them.
That version of the story does not appear to account for the prone position, nor for the multiple abrasions and contusions the coroner found on Tanisha’s body, nor for her fractured sternum.
The family says that they watched and listened from the house as Tanisha, who was afraid of confined spaces, cried out for her mother and brother. They heard her recite the Lord’s Prayer. Then Detective Aldridge, “slammed her to the sidewalk and pushed her face into the pavement. He placed his knee onto her back, placed his weight on her and placed Tanisha in handcuffs.” While his partner Brian Meyers, helped hold her down.
Tanisha was on the ground handcuffed and held in a prone position for 14 minutes before EMS was called. After she stopped moving, the police did not call an ambulance for some time and left Tanisha Anderson in the middle of the road.
The city concedes only that emergency medical services were not called until 45 minutes after the officers arrived, and that Anderson was handcuffed when the paramedics got there.
The city also denies problems with the Cleveland Division of Police’s policy on handling the mentally ill.
What has changed:
A consent decree was recently imposed upon the Cleveland police in a settlement with the US Dept of Justice. The additional training procedures outlined in the decree were the sort of reform the family has been hoping for.
A report states: “The failure to highlight and demand accountability for the countless black women killed by police over the past two decades leaves black women unnamed and thus under-protected in the face of their continued vulnerability to racialized police violence.”