Report Urges Police Reforms on Mental Health Protocols


A report by a justice system policy group recommends that law enforcement agencies change their practices regarding mental illness, sex workers and addiction without waiting for legislative action, reports the Texas Tribune. The report, “First Do No Harm: Advancing Public Health in Policing Practices,” was released Tuesday by the Vera Institute of Justice. David Cloud, a co-author, said the time is right to “rethink all aspects of the criminal justice system.” He said police officers, often described as “street-corner psychiatrists,” are ill-equipped to deal with public health issues and are hampered by a culture that focuses on punishment over treatment.

The study makes four recommendations for law enforcement: Reach out to advocacy groups and their constituents to build trust, empower marginalized individuals and promote dignity; minimize arrests in the vicinity of harm-reduction clinics, such as those that offer needle-exchange programs, to encourage people to continue to use such services; create overdose prevention programs and collaborative efforts by working with health professionals to form best practices in law enforcement, and change the metric for success from arrests made to arrests averted for people in need of treatment.

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