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For many police officers, working with the mentally ill is routine. But it’s not often easy, especially if the subject is agitated and presenting a threat to his- or herself and others. Following are five general tips to make it, hopefully, an easier and safer interaction.
1) There are many potential scenarios LEOs regularly face for which attempting verbal deescalation will actually jeopardize officer safety, and it is therefore is inadvisable.
2) Using command-and-control style communication with actively psychotic persons often leads to the situation being escalated.
3) The communities we serve and the courts have both been raising the bar in terms of the expectations they have for law enforcement when interacting with people in psychiatric crisis.
4) Case law has been moving in the direction of expecting officers to get a “specialist” on scene when interacting with mentally ill subjects. Specialists are officers with additional training (i.e., crisis intervention team) or mental health professionals who work in the field with law enforcement.
5) It’s important for officers to (a) slow things down whenever possible, (b) get as much information as possible about the subject they are contacting before making contact, (c) call in a specialist whenever possible, and (d) whenever possible attempt to use crisis-deescalation with the subject.
Jeff Shannon is a police officer, law enforcement instructor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. He teaches Wellness and Crisis De-Escalation as part of the Alameda County, Calif. Crisis Intervention Training program. Jeff is recognized by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) as a subject matter expert in the area of stress management for law enforcement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wow Bonnie that was quite an experience you had yourself. Thankfully it was resolved without injury or death. I agree with the above post as well. Law enforcement can no longer take a "one call fits all" approach anymore. The direction of training is going in the right direction. It will just take a little time too be fully implemented.
I know the officers were just doing their job. I was hysterical for sure, having a flashback and terrified of everybody. Here is this crazy lady running barefoot and hiding from people in the bushes. They could have tazed me but they didn't. And they could have taken me to jail, but they didn't. In retrospect...I suppose they didn't have any other option! Good thing I have respect for officers. I did exactly what they said!