The recent shift in the healthcare system, which implied the reduction of the specialized facilities in dealing with mentally disabled patients, has increased the incidents numbers that police forces to handle. This situation has led to the need for understanding the preparedness of the police officers to answer the deviant behavior of mentally disordered individuals involved in public offenses or criminal action. Four articles will be reviewed for developing an integrative literature review on this topic, which will be critically synthesized for reaching solutions for dealing with the current situation. Hollander, Lee, Tahtalian Young and Kulkarni’s article “Challenges Relating to the Interface between Crisis Mental Health Clinicians and Police When Engaging with People with a Mental Illness” will be summarized for identifying the difficulties of police officers in handling mental disordered cases. Sellers, Sullivan, Veysey and Shane’s study “Responding to Persons with Mental Illness: Police Perspectives on Specialized and Traditional Practices” will be critically integrated in the literature review for arguing whether special programs are actually needed to improve police effectiveness in handling mental disorder cases, as Torraco (2005) advises. McLean and Marshal’s study, “A Front Line Police Perspective of Mental Health Issues and Services” and Desmaris, Greaves, Verdun – Jones, Parent, Livingstone, Johnson and Brick’s article “Police Perceptions and Contact among People with Mental Illnesses Comparisons with a General Population Survey” will also be used as integrative lectures for analyzing the studied issue.
The changes in the health care environment that reduced the number of the facilities handling the cases of mentally challenged individuals imposed increased difficulties on the police forces, facing additional services to their regular tasks. In their criminal or public offences incidents, the police officers are challenged to be sensitive to understanding if the aggressors are mentally disordered and if so, to handle them properly, which interferes with their regular police duties, as Hollander et al. (2012) indicate. Frustrations may appear among police officers because of their lack of preparedness to treat the instigators who might suffer of mental problems, as McLean and Marshall (2010) present, or communication problems may arise from the interaction of police officers with mentally ill individuals (Desmarais et al, 2014; Hollander et al., 2012). However, Sellers et al. (2005) suggest that the gravity of the issue is not so consistent, as police officers can handle mentally disordered aggressors using traditional health care methods with similar or even better results than the specialized agencies.
Synthesis of the Resources
There are multiple facets and approaches on the direct contact between police officers and mentally disordered aggressors, most of them suggesting the incapacity of police as an institution, to provide adequate responses for the individuals who suffer of mental illnesses. Hollander et al. (2012) stress the importance of addressing this issue in a collaborative manner by developing shared programs for training the police officers on how to provide assistance and to deal with the mentally disordered patients, in cases of aggressions or criminality. On the other hand, Sellers et al. (2005) manifest reluctance regarding the necessity of programs meant to address police’s preparedness for handling the criminal or aggressive acts committed by the mentally disordered individuals. Nevertheless, Sellers et al.’s (2005) study was developed on a limited sample, enjoying a particular climate existent in Newark Police Department, which emphasizes as the traditional role of police officers their mandate beyond the law enforcement. The indications that the police officers can handle the situations of mentally disordered individuals better than the specialized health care agents (Sellers et al., 2005) contradict the findings of Hollander et al. (2012). The later study shows that besides wasting time from dealing with their regular duties while assisting the mentally disordered individuals, the police officers also have difficulties in differentiating the mentally disordered aggressors from the aggressors under alcohol or drug influence (Hollander et al., 2012). In addition, McLean and Marshall (2010) refer to the lack of proper communication between the police officers and the health care personnel, which often leads to unsuccessful admission in hospitals of the mentally disordered aggressors, which means wasted time for the police officers and inefficiency for both the security and the health care services (Hollander et al, 2012).
While inefficiency is an issue that usually the police officers remark regarding their contact with the mentally ill individuals, the mentally ill individuals on the other hand show generally no adverse reactions regarding how the police officers treat them (Desmarais, 2014). Studies show that police staffs are sensitive to mentally disordered individuals and in their interactions with them, they show understanding and tolerance (McLean & Marshall, 2010; Desmarais, 2014). However, there still remains the problem of efficiency that the analyzed studies found as the main problem of police officers’ lack of preparedness in health care practices for dealing with the mentally disordered cases. Collaborative programs among police departments and health care facilities is the main recommended solution for solving this situation (Hollander, 2012; McLean & Marshall, 2010), but also the implication of other community agents in supporting the police work (Desmerais, 2014).
The reviewed articles indicate distinct approaches to the police officers’ lack of preparedness in handling the mentally disordered individuals involved in aggression acts or criminal incidence. While the police officers are trained to show tolerance for these individuals, they lack the adequate expertise of providing the necessary treatment and an effective communication and collaboration with the health care services to assist the mentally disordered individuals in police care is missing. The primary step in addressing the current challenges commences with acknowledging these difficulties and finding solutions meant to optimize the police work, by joint effort from police departments, health care facilities and community support.
Desmarais, S.L., Greaves, C.L., Verdun-Jones, S., Parent, R., Livingstone, J.D., Johnson, K.L. & Brink, J. (2014) “Police perceptions and contact among people with mental illness: Comparisons with a general population survey”. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 431 – 442.
Hollander, Y., Lee, S.J., Tahtalian, S., Young, D. & Kulkarni, J. (2012) “Challenges relating to the interface between crisis mental health clinicians and police when engaging with people with mental illness”. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. Vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 402 – 411.
McLean, N. & Marshall, L.A. (2010) “A front line police perspective of mental health issues and services”. Criminal Behavior and Mental Health. Vol. 20, pp. 62 – 71.
Sellers, C.L., Sullivan, C.J., Veysey, B.M., Shane, J.M. (2005) “Responding to persons with mental illnesses: Police perspectives on specialized and traditional practices”. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behavioral Science Law. Vol. 23, pp. 647 – 657.
Torraco, R.J. (2005) “Writing integrative literature reviews: Guidelines and examples”. Human Resource Development Review. Vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 356 – 367.