Training to enhance law enforcement response to people in mental health crisis

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Training to Enhance Effective Handling of Emotionally Disturbed Person Calls

Criminal Justice Action Research Project

by
Eileen A. Carr

An Action Research Project Presented to the Criminal Justice Department in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice Administration

Keuka College
(2012)

Abstract
Training to Enhance Effective Handling of Emotionally Disturbed Person Calls. Eileen Carr, 2012: Action Research Project, Keuka College, Master of Science Degree Program in Criminal Justice Administration.

The major purpose of the research project was to establish that training programs enhance the ability to address emotionally disturbed persons (EDP) calls for road patrol officers (RPO) from the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office. The null hypothesis consisted of the theory that the current system, which is a combination of academy training and infrequent use of field training, is adequate to properly prepare RPO for dispatch to EDP situations. Therefore, the project was designed to assess current training provided officers in order to perform their duties concerning EDP calls. This information is utilized for recommendations designed for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office to implement training conducive to the highest learning capacity and cost effectiveness.

The findings revealed several key points with regard to the data collected from the surveys conducted at the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office. Although there are many crisis intervention teams active throughout the country, survey results revealed Onondaga County Sheriff’s deputies are not familiar with the model. Answers from the survey reflect that laws pertaining to liability are not familiar to the test subjects. The deputies responding to the survey do agree that there is an increasing problem stemming from lack of treatment options for people with mental illness. Survey respondents also agree they are first responders to people with emotional disturbances on a regular basis.

Several conclusions were drawn from the culmination of the research as follows. “As the role of police officers continues to expand from exclusively crime fighting to encompass other service-oriented functions, they must be able to recognize the characteristics of individuals in crisis in order to provide an effective and helpful resolution to the situation while preventing liability and risk of injury” (Olivia, Morgan & Compton, 2010, p. 16). The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model has been successfully implemented in several states across the country. There have also been successful CIT programs implemented in other countries. The research concludes that officers trained in crisis intervention regarding vulnerable populations are more effective in handling situations that involve EDPs. Research with respect to legal liability supports training as key to mitigating liability for law enforcement agencies as well as for officers’ personal liability. The survey responses revealed a lack of understanding with regard to special populations and legal liability that potentially can be remedied by implementing a CIT program.

The recommendations that the research supported are more research and education on effective ways to enhance officer response to EDP calls, most cost effective delivery of training, and partnerships that can be formed to facilitate implementation of a successful CIT program. With training, the skill base and knowledge can be conveyed to de-escalate crisis situations resulting in better outcomes regarding officer safety, liability to the department and service to the community.

Researcher Biography

Eileen A. Carr, B.S.

Keuka College
Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration Candidate

Ms. Carr raised three children (one of which has a developmental disability) as a single mother from 1987 to...
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