New Guide Helps Police Deal With Mentally Ill


A law enforcement guide for dealing with mentally-ill people was issued today by The Council of State Governments’ Justice Center. The guide translates research findings to help policymakers and practitioners develop safe and effective interventions. Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, it reviews the scope and nature of the problem and a range of law enforcement responses. “These interactions are often time-consuming, difficult to resolve, and can result in tragic outcomes,” said Justice Center Board Member and Mesa, Az., Police Chief George Gascón.

Research shows that law enforcement encounters with people with mental illnesses often are n more time-consuming than other calls for service, require officers to have special training and skills, may be shaped by available community mental health resources, ypically involve repeat contact with the same people who have unmet mental health needs, often are in response to a complaint of “nuisance” behavior involving a person with a mental illness, and occasionally involve volatile situations that risk the safety of all involved. The guide asserts that specialized responses such as crisis intervention teams, co-response teams, and other police-based efforts show promise for increasing public safety, reducing repeat calls for service, and better serving people with mental illnesses.

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