Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Law Enforcement Response to People with Mental Illnesses: A Guide to Research-Informed Policy and Practice

The Council of State Governments Justice Center announced today the release of The Law Enforcement Response to People with Mental Illnesses: A Guide to Research-Informed Policy and Practice. The guide examines studies on law enforcement interactions with people with mental illnesses and translates the findings to help policymakers and practitioners develop safe and effective interventions. Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, it reviews research on the scope and nature of the problem and on a range of law enforcement responses.

Understanding how law enforcement officers engage people with mental illnesses is an issue of national importance. "These interactions are often time-consuming, difficult to resolve, and, can result in tragic outcomes," said Justice Center Board Member and Mesa, Arizona, Police Chief George Gascn. "This guide will help law enforcement and policymakers better understand these encounters and the specialized responses, which research suggests may lead to more positive results for all involved."

Research findings show that law enforcement encounters with people with mental illnesses are often 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,
typically involve repeat contact with the same people who have unmet mental health needs, often are in response to a complaint of "nuisance" behavior,
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 great promise for increasing public safety, reducing repeat calls for service, and better serving people with mental illnesses. Yet policymakers and planners generally implement these initiatives without the benefit of research and data to guide program development for their community. This guide is meant to provide that foundation.

The Justice Center report, as well as related materials from a Bureau of Justice Assistance-supported series including The Essential Elements of a Specialized Law Enforcement-Based Program and Strategies for Effective Law Enforcement Training, can be downloaded for free at A similar report on what the research says about community corrections responses to people with mental illnesses can be downloaded at

The Guide was produced under Grant No. 05-82376-000-HCD for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. A limited number of hard copies (NCJ 226965) can be ordered through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at or by calling 800-851-3420 (international: 301-519-5500;TTY: 301-947-8374).

No comments: