Nationwide Survey Shows Scope of Law Enforcement Contact with Mentally Ill Individuals

by | May 17, 2019

Nearly all law enforcement officers have had an interaction with an individual who is mentally ill or experiencing a mental health crisis, and 60% of officers say mentally ill individuals make up at least 11% of their contacts. The statistics come from a just-released report from Lexipol, the nation’s leading source of mission-critical training and state-specific policy solutions for law enforcement agencies.

People experiencing a mental crisis have a higher chance of an interaction with law enforcement officers. Some incidents involve criminal conduct, but often officers are called because there is no one else to respond. There is a vast amount of anecdotal evidence showing the negative impacts of this issue—strained resources, burnt out or demoralized officers, and injuries or even death to the people in crisis. But data is frequently lacking to explain the complicated connection between law enforcement and the mentally ill.

Lexipol created a comprehensive nationwide survey with questions designed to reveal a more detailed picture of how this issue is unfolding in law enforcement agencies across the nation. The resulting report tabulates responses from more than 4,200 law enforcement officers and leaders who shared their perspectives on the frequency and nature of such calls and how their training and policies prepare them to respond.

“Despite the prevalence of such calls, there is surprisingly little data to paint a clear picture of their impact on officers and agencies. This survey gives us a first-of-its-kind look into these encounters,” said Lexipol program manager and retired police chief Mike Ranalli, who helped develop the survey and frequently speaks on the legal and safety considerations of responding to people in crisis. “We anticipate the data will pave the way for open dialogue and additional research about this multifaceted issue.”

Key highlights from the report include:

  • Nearly 40% of agencies don’t have specialized resources to respond to calls involving mentally ill people
  • One in three officers have been injured during a call involving a mentally ill person or a person experiencing a mental health crisis
  • 78% of officers say it takes at least 30 minutes to get professional mental health providers on scene

Click here to download the full report.

Lexipol provides public safety and local government with solutions that combine the impact of information with the power of technology. We serve more than 2 million first responders and local government officials with policies, training, wellness resources, grant assistance, and news and analysis.

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