Police Perspectives on Responding to Mentally Ill People in Crisis: Perceptions of Program Effectiveness

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In this study, we sampled sworn police officers from three law enforcement agencies (n=452), each of which had different system responses to mentally ill people in crisis. One department relies on field assistance from a mobile mental health crisis team, a second has a team of officers specially trained in crisis intervention and management of mentally ill people in crisis, and a third has a team of in‐house social workers to assist in responding to calls. Calls involving mentally ill people in crisis appear to be frequent and are perceived by most of the officers to pose a significant problem for the department; however, most officers reported feeling well prepared to handle these calls. Generally, officers from the jurisdiction with a specialized team of officers rated their program as being highly effective in meeting the needs of mentally ill people in crisis, keeping mentally ill people out of jail, minimizing the amount of time officers spend on these calls, and maintaining community safety. Officers from departments relying on a mobile crisis unit (MCU) and on police‐based social workers both rated their programs as being moderately effective on each of these dimensions except for minimizing officer time on these calls where the MCU had significantly lower ratings.

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Behavioral Sciences & the Law”, v. 16, issue 4, p. 393-405