Officer perceptions of police responses to persons with a mental illness
Policing: An International Journal
Article publication date: 1 October 2006
The purpose of this paper is to explore police officer perceptions of their contacts with the mentally ill and examine outcomes of an innovative police training program designed to improve police handling of cases involving the mentally ill.
The study utilizes a sample of 126 police officer respondents from five departments in northern Indiana to understand their perceptions of important aspects of their contacts with the mentally ill.
Results show the actual dispositions for the mentally ill frequently do not match the outcomes officers desire, police training on responding to the mentally ill is not sufficient, and the training component of an innovative reform holds promise for improving officers' ability to respond to situations that involve the mentally ill.
The study is limited to one community and results may not generalize to communities with distinct mental health resources. Perceptions of police contacts with the mentally ill were not obtained from mental health service providers, advocates, and persons with a mental illness.
Contacts between the police and the mentally ill pose complex challenges for officers. Advocates contend that too many persons with a mental illness end up in jail as a result of police contacts and, thus, promote jail diversion programs. For jail diversion to succeed it is critical to understand officer perceptions of the outcomes they desire for the mentally ill and the obstacles that inhibit appropriate dispositions. Evidence about the outcomes of specialized police training can improve officers' knowledge and perceived ability to respond to the mentally ill.
Wells, W. and Schafer, J.A. (2006), "Officer perceptions of police responses to persons with a mental illness", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 578-601. https://doi.org/10.1108/13639510610711556
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