Responding to Individual with Mental Illness: Law Enforcement Basic Practices and Principles

Legal Compliance Resource
September 24, 2013 — 1,024 views  

One of the growing law enforcement tasks in urban communities involve having to deal with individuals with mental illness. The law enforcement principles come with clear guidelines applicable, more specifically, to mentally ill persons. The police are bound by their duty to protect and safeguard disabled persons, including those who are mentally ill. As per police guidelines, if a person is dangerous to either one self or to others, immediate psychiatric apprehension must be initiated.

Handling Mentally Ill Persons

There are basically two ways law enforcement officials can deal with persons suffering from mental illness, irrespective of whether or not they are a threat to society. If they are a threat to others, they can be apprehended. Alternatively, they must be helped with hospitalization. Since the hospitals have limits to admission, the police officials sparingly use the option of referrals. Moreover, the police officers have no incentive to get them admitted since they are not rewarded for their efforts. More often, the officers have no other option but to arrest the mentally challenged individual.

Yet, the way mentally ill persons are to be handled is a serious issue that must be sensitively addressed. Why should people with mental illness be criminalized when they need to be treated with care and courtesy? In other words, law enforcement officials must be trained in handling mentally challenged individuals. People with mental illness must be referred to mental hospitals for which it is critical that the police enters into a no decline agreement with mental hospitals.

Changes to Decision Making

Dealing with a mentally ill person requires changes in decision making based on policy recommendations. The mental health system must first address the issue of institutionalization. Additionally, it is also critical that law enforcement and mental illness institutions develop synergistic relationship and work towards a mutually advantageous solution.

Moreover, it is important that the level of fund allocation for community mental health is raised. The law should enable the operation according to law enforcement principles for which it is important that a collaborative alliance is forged between criminal justice and the public health systems.

When an integrated care giving system is designed, it will do an immense service to the cause of justice to mentally challenged individuals - Consequently, they would be far less criminalized. There are several policy recommendations on the humane treatment of mentally challenged offenders, which must be enforced and implemented.

Legal Compliance Resource