“Department Training Bulletins shall be used to advise members of current police techniquesand procedures and shall constitute official policy.”
Index Number: III-NAlpha Index: Mentally Ill PersonsEffectiv Date:29 Sepe
POLICE CONTACT WITH MENTALLY ILL PERSONSDefinition and Prevalence
A mental disorder is defined as “a behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern associated with distress,or disability, or associated with increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or loss of freedom. The behavior or syndrome must be considered a manifestation of a psychological or biological dysfunction in theindividual”.
The number of persons affected with mental illness or disorders is large. As many as one familyin five is estimated to be affected by mental illness.
Law Enforcement Contact
Mentally ill persons have special needs; they may require assistance or become victims of crimes. Theyfrequently come to the attention of the police. A California Little Hoover Commission report
suggests thatlaw enforcement frequently handles mentally ill persons like it handles other special needs that lack adequatecommunity resources.There are special challenges associated with mentally ill persons. They may not understand or followinstruction, and they may appear to misbehave. Some mental illnesses are associated with antisocial or criminal behaviors. For each of these reasons police have frequent contact with mentally ill persons.It is helpful to recognize when a person is suffering from a mental illness. Although it can be difficult for mental health professionals to agree on diagnoses, officers can learn to recognize the common or moredisruptive signs of mental illness. Many mentally ill persons suffer breaks from reality in which theyexperience auditory, visual, or other hallucinations. They may hear “command voices” that give themcommands or directions to do dangerous or destructive things. Other behaviors the officers may look for are:
Confused thinking and speech where the subject has trouble in communicating in coherentsentences.
Emotional flatness or lack of expression, where their speech is brief and lacks content.
The subject displays a sense of heightened energy, euphoria, racing thoughts, inflated feelings of power, and /or reckless behavior.
Profound sadness and irritability, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, changes in their sleep patterns, anda decrease in appetite.
American Psychiatric Association, 2000
Diagnostic and statistical manual disorders(4
edition, text revised),
Being There: Making a Commitment to Mental Health
(Report #157, November 2000)