Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice; College of Arts & Sciences

First Advisor

Favian Guertin-Martín, PhD

Abstract

Due to an over-reliance on law enforcement, police officers have become frontline responders to individuals suffering with mental illness, despite not being properly trained to handle such situations. Many studies have addressed officers’ feelings of incompetence and lack of preparedness when faced with an individual in distress. Without proper training, police tend to resort to force against individuals in mental distress, which can escalate the situation even further. This paper serves to analyze the excessive use of force that is commonly used amongst police officers during mental distress calls, as well as its potentially dangerous and fatal outcomes for individuals with mental illness. As police brutality becomes more of an addressed systemic issue, police departments across the United States have begun to implement specialized police training programs, such as Crisis Intervention Team Training and community-oriented policing. Unfortunately, these kinds of programs are only effective if the officer in training has a desire to improve and if the situation unfolds in a predictable way. Despite some success with specialized police training, research suggests that the defunding of police and reallocation of funds to social services provide the best outcome for individuals with mental illness, allowing mental health experts to be frontline responders to mental distress calls.

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Mental Distress Calls: Should Police be Frontline Responders?

Due to an over-reliance on law enforcement, police officers have become frontline responders to individuals suffering with mental illness, despite not being properly trained to handle such situations. Many studies have addressed officers’ feelings of incompetence and lack of preparedness when faced with an individual in distress. Without proper training, police tend to resort to force against individuals in mental distress, which can escalate the situation even further. This paper serves to analyze the excessive use of force that is commonly used amongst police officers during mental distress calls, as well as its potentially dangerous and fatal outcomes for individuals with mental illness. As police brutality becomes more of an addressed systemic issue, police departments across the United States have begun to implement specialized police training programs, such as Crisis Intervention Team Training and community-oriented policing. Unfortunately, these kinds of programs are only effective if the officer in training has a desire to improve and if the situation unfolds in a predictable way. Despite some success with specialized police training, research suggests that the defunding of police and reallocation of funds to social services provide the best outcome for individuals with mental illness, allowing mental health experts to be frontline responders to mental distress calls.

 
 

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