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People With Mental Illness

NCJ Number
Gary Cordner
Date Published
June 2006
82 pages
After providing an overview of the challenges that police face in dealing with mentally ill persons, this booklet presents questions that might help an agency identify local policing problems linked to people with mental illness, followed by a review of responses to the problems and their effectiveness as determined from evaluative research.
Mental illness in itself is not a law enforcement issue, but rather involves medical and social services. The booklet describes a variety of police strategies for responding to incidents that involve mentally ill people. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several types of responses that include mental health agencies, social services, and family services. Police agencies should work with other stakeholders to develop general and specific policies for addressing situations with mentally ill people that are most prevalent in the jurisdiction being served. The police become involved with mentally ill individuals only when they commit crimes, suicide, and public disorder. After discussing these common situations in which police officers encounter mentally ill people in the course of their work, this booklet discusses the dangerousness of mentally ill individuals, harms they may cause, related problems, and factors that contribute to the problem. Guidance for assessing a local problem in dealing with mentally ill people contains questions that pertain to the nature of incidents in which police encounter mentally ill people, the identification of stakeholders who provide services to mentally ill persons, the characteristics of victims of harms committed by mentally ill people, the characteristics of mentally ill people who commit crimes or are victimized, and the characteristics of people who neglect and/or abuse people with mental illness. Also addressed are the locations and times where and when police are most likely to receive a call that involves a mentally ill person. 66 notes, 55 references, and appended summary of police responses to people with mental illness