Policing and Mentally Ill Individuals

Police frequently encounter individuals who are mentally ill.   Departments’ approaches in relation to these individuals vary greatly, whether in general encounters or in specific incidents that have become dangerous stand-offs.  Some departments have created special “crisis intervention teams” specifically trained on mental health issues.  These special teams often collaborate with local mental health officials and respond jointly to calls for service involving persons with a mental illness.


Bureau of Justice Assistance, “Memphis, Tennessee, Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team,” 2000.

PARC Best Practices Review interview with Maj. Sam Cochran, Memphis Police Department, July 2003. [PDF 100]

Virginia G. Cooper, Alix M. McLearen and Patricia A. Zapf, “Dispositional Decisions with the Mentally Ill:  Police Perceptions and Characteristics,” Police Quarterly, September 2004.

Randolph Dupont, PhD, and Sam Cochran, MS, “Police Response to Mental Health Emergencies – Barriers to Change,” The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2000.

Robert J. Kaminski, Clete DiGiovanni and Raymond Downs, “The Use of Force Between the Police and Persons with Impaired Judgment,” Police Quarterly, September 2004.

Los Angeles Police Department, “Consent Decree Mental Illness Final Report,” May 2002.

Jim Ruiz and Chad Miller, “An Exploratory Study of Pennsylvania Police Officers’ Perceptions of Dangerousness and Their Ability to Manage Persons with Mental Illness,” Police Quarterly, September 2004.   

Henry J. Steadman, Joseph P. Morrisey, Martha W. Deane, and Randy Borum, Henry J. Steadman, PhD, Martha Williams Deane, MA, Randy Borum, PsyD, Joseph P. Morrissey, PhD, “Comparing Outcomes of Major Models of Police Responses to Mental Health Emergencies,” Psychiatric Services, Vol. 51, No. 5, May 2000.

“Police Response to Emotionally Disturbed Persons:  Analyzing New Models of
Police Interations with the Mental Health System,” Washington, DC:  U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, December 1999.

Jennifer L. S. Teller, PhD, Mark R. Munetz, MD, Karen M. Gil, PhD, Christian Ritter, PhD, “Crisis Intervention Team Training for Police Officers Responding to Mental Disturbance Calls,” Psychiatric Services, Vol. 57, No. 2, February 2006.

Linda A. Teplin, “Keeping the Peace:  Police Discretion and Mentally Ill Persons,” Washington, DC:  U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice Journal, July 2000.

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Relevant Links/Resources

Independent Police Complaints Commission, United Kingdom, “Mental Health and Policing.” 

Mental Health Consensus Project

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Institute of Mental Health

Western Law Center for Disability Rights

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