Why Train Officers?
It is increasingly recognized that current training regimes for police are not sufficient to support officers in their interactions with those who may have a mental health issue. Current evidence suggests the need for a more comprehensive approach.
Police officers are the first line responders to mental illness
- High rates of mental illness, high rates of suicide, often with police being first responders to these instances.
- Police officers provide 24-hour service availability and are first-line responders 5-25% of interactions (Brink 2011, Litzcke, 2003)
- Increased levels of contact
- Increased prevalence of mental illness (including addictions) in society
- Increased levels of homelessness and unemployment in the mental health population (Cotton, 2004)
- Those with mental illness are more likely to be victims, suspects, offenders or witnesses (Godfredson et al., 2011)
- High presence of mental illness in jails: 64% (US depart of justice, 2012)
To improve negative interactions
Persons with mental illness have been found to be fatally shot by police 4 times more than individuals without mental illness
While another study finds persons with mental illness to be much more likely to be victims of police shootings (Smetanin, Stiff et al. 2011). Canada and the United Kingdom have found that 37–48% of individuals fatally shot by police were classified as having a mental health problem at the time of the shooting (Parent 1996, Kennedy 1998, PCA 2003, Best, Havis et al. 2004).
Training police officers to interact better with persons with mental illness has been found to decrease violence in mental health interactions (Dupont and Cochran 2000)
Mental health training is considered an essential component to reduce the number of undesirable outcomes between law-enforcement officers and persons with mental illness. Research finds that a lack of training can lead to an escalation in violence (Prenzler, Porter et al. 2013) as well as increased rates of injury and death (Patch and Arrigo 1999, Teplin 2000, Ruiz and Miller 2004, Munetz, Fitzgerald et al. 2006, Brink, Livingston et al. 2011).
CIT and other mental health training programs aim to improve the interaction and safety between police officers and those suffering from a mental health crisis (Compton, Bahora et al. 2008) and training on verbal communication, de-escalation skills and the improvement in partnerships between community providers (Watson, Morabito et al. 2008).
Without training, officers feel that they lack adequate training needed to interact with persons with mental illness and are frustrated by the time consuming nature of mental health calls, therefore resulting in more frequent arrests (Hails and Borum 2003). Training provides alternate solutions to this obstacle (Loch 2008).
A focus is needed on providing appropriate and sufficient education for police to recognize and understand mental illness, but also so that they might respond appropriately and empathically employ de-escalation techniques as needed avoid undue use of force attempt to connect people with mental illnesses with community agencies and services.