Welcome back to our continuing series on how law enforcement is working with those who struggle with their mental health. In our previous post, we examined the reduction in the use of force claims made against the Portland Police Department after they incorporated special training for encountering and interacting with those who have mental health issues. Departments across the country are offering officers access to more training and equipping them with better information about working response calls where mental illness is a factor. Policing those with mental illness is difficult. While the person may not be committing a crime or may have committed a minor offense which truly warrants no action on behalf of the law, many officers feel pressured by the community to "do something" when an individual does something that causes concern. Searching for a counselor in Charlotte, NC you can trust. Reach out to Legacy Freedom for help.
Most departments give officers the ability to use broad discretion when it comes to addressing minor offenses or members of the community push officers to react. The majority of these incidents are handled by officers who talk with the mentally ill individual at the scene without making an arrest. During these encounters, officers are often able to share resources and provide interventions which may prevent future negative engagement with law enforcement. Part of the challenge that officers face when working with someone who is mentally ill during a call is that these calls have some unique characteristics.
- require special skills and training
- involve the same individuals whose mental health needs are not being met
- are in response to nuisance or minor offenses
- often take more time than other service requests
- may include erratic behavior that puts all involved at risk
As a result of the rising number of people who are unable or unwilling to access mental health care, police departments are adopting specialized responses to mentally ill community members. The hope is that positive interactions with members of the law enforcement community will decrease the frequency of the individual's involvement with law enforcement and the judicial system, increase access to support services and treatment resources, reduce the cost incurred by the police departments and improve the safety of the officers. Cultivating these specialized responses to individuals who struggle with mental illness costs the departments time and money. However, more and more departments are shouldering the financial burden and giving their officers better training and resources to help their communities face the growing number of people who struggle with mental illness.
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