Police Chiefs Release Report: Improving Police Response to Persons with Mental Illness



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                      CONTACT:      

July 8, 2010                                                                Meredith Mays Ward, 703-647-7226





Alexandria, VA – Every day across the country law enforcement officers respond to calls involving an individual with mental illness. People experiencing a mental health crisis and their families often rely on law enforcement officers to respond in an effective manner, treating the person with mental illness with compassion and respect, while at the same time protecting the safety of the public. Unfortunately, due to the lack of consistent policies, procedures, training and education among law enforcement agencies, too many of these calls end badly for all involved.


In response to this need, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has released a report titled Building Safer Communities: Improving Police Response to Persons with Mental Illness. This report presents the findings and recommendations from a national summit held by IACP in May 2009 to address the millions of encounters between law enforcement and persons with mental illness in our communities.


This report outlines the scope of the problem, identifies factors that have contributed to current challenges and describes innovative policies, programs and practices that have emerged in recent years to provide a foundation of this blueprint for change.  These promising approaches offer safer, more compassionate and often cost-effective ways for police and their community partners to respond to adults and juveniles with mental illness. 


This report is intended to serve as a catalyst, opening a dialogue, increasing mutual understanding and strengthening collaboration among all those with a stake in ensuring appropriate responses to persons with mental illness—law enforcement, community residents, mental health service consumers and their families, advocacy groups and the mental health and justice systems—that will result increased public safety for the community and the ability to better serve individuals with mental illness  


“One of my top priorities during my term has been a commitment to safeguarding the lives of our officers and the citizens they serve,” stated IACP President Michael Carroll, Chief of the West Goshen Township, PA Police Department. “Therefore it is imperative that we provide officers with the tools and training necessary to respond appropriately and ensure not only their safety, but also that of the person in mental health crisis, their family and the community at large. I am confident that this publication will aid law enforcement agencies in establishing much needed protocols for police and their community partners to respond to adults and juveniles with mental illness.”


The summit was a collaborative effort with funding provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the JEHT Foundation (NY). Summit design and substantive support was also provided by the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health (NFFCMH), and the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations (NCMHCSO). 


“The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health is excited to be involved in a partnership with the IACP to improve and advance outcomes of encounters between law enforcement and children and youth with mental health illness.” Sandra Spencer, Executive Director, NFFCMH.


The summit brought together over 100 leaders from across the country—law enforcement executives and officers, consumers/survivors of mental health services, community and family members, mental health practitioners and advocates, representatives of courts and corrections agencies, and researchers—who contributed  their knowledge to both the summit itself and this report.


“It is our collective responsibility to work together to develop practical strategies and tools to assist law enforcement and the justice system to ensure that persons with mental illness receive the services they need and to preserve public safety,” said James Burch, Acting Director of BJA. “With state and local governments struggling to sustain corrections and justice system operations, we must be smart about decision making at all points along the justice continuum, and certainly at the front door.  The summit and the IACP report will move us in this direction.”


The International Association of Chiefs of Police is the world’s oldest and largest association of law enforcement executives.  Founded in 1893, the IACP has more than 22,000 members in 100 countries.




The International Association of Chiefs of Police

515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314





Download now or preview on posterous

2010.pdf (1805 KB)

Download now or preview on posterous

2009.pdf (1805 KB)


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