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Improving Responses to People With Mental Illnesses: Strategies for Effective Law Enforcement Training

NCJ Number
Melissa Reuland; Matt Schwarzfeld
Date Published
October 2008
58 pages
This training resource guide synthesizes the key lessons learned by several jurisdictions that have developed training for police officers in managing people with mental illnesses.
Part One of the guide addresses strategies for recruiting, selecting, and preparing effective trainers. Effective strategies described for recruiting and selecting trainers are the development of in-house expertise in teaching law enforcement topics; working with partners in identifying trainers outside the law enforcement agency; and coordinating training sessions with other area law enforcement agencies, resulting in the sharing of trainers and reduction in overhead costs. In selecting trainers, the guide advises that they should have an appreciation for the specialized response goals, positive attitudes toward law enforcement, and experience with people with mental illnesses involved with the criminal justice system. Trainers should also have skills in making programmatic decisions and providing feedback. Regarding the preparation of trainers, one chapter in Part One discusses approaches for teaching content on mental illness that address the unique needs of law enforcement personnel and are sensitive to the characteristics of the policing subculture. Part Two of the guide contains two chapters on effective training techniques. One chapter provides guidance on how to use role-play exercises effectively, including helping officers to master essential de-escalation techniques. A second chapter illustrates how less traditional law enforcement training options can help officers appreciate both the difficulties faced by people with mental illnesses and their family members, as well as the way mental health treatments and supports are provided in their communities. Each of the chapters in both parts of the guide list challenges that jurisdictions have faced in implementing a training initiative, followed by recommendations for and discussions of how they can be addressed. Appended list of Advisory Board members, suggested training topics, and a curriculum resource list

Date Published: October 1, 2008