Emotionally Disturbed Persons


Dealing with the emotionally disturbed has always presented a quandary for law enforcement. Individuals suffering from mental illness are often those who suffer immensely, and as such, elicit sympathy from the rest of the population. All of us can look at their condition and be glad we are not suffering from a similar affliction. Yet the mentally ill person poses unique threats to police officers.

Dealing with individuals in enforcement and related contexts who are known or suspected to be mentally ill carries the potential for violence, requires an officer to make difficult judgments about the mental state and intent of the individual, and requires special police skills and abilities to effectively and legally deal with the person so as to avoid unnecessary violence and potential civil litigation. Given the unpredictable and sometimes violent nature of the mentally ill, officers should never compromise or jeopardize their safety or the safety of others when dealing with individuals displaying symptoms of mental illness. In the context of enforcement and related activities, officers shall be guided by this state's law regarding the detention of the mentally ill. Officers shall use this policy to assist them in defining whether a person's behavior is indicative of mental illness and dealing with the mentally ill in a constructive and humane manner.


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The following helpful links are provided to to give the officer a better framework when encountering individuals with mental illness.

TREATMENT ADVOCACY CENTER
Treatment Advocacy Center

SUMMARY: A natural outgrowth of a mental health system that withholds needed treatment until a person with a mental illness becomes dangerous is that police officers and sheriff’s deputies are forced to become front line mental health workers. The safety of both law enforcement officers and citizens is compromised when law enforcement responds to crises involving people with severe mental illnesses who are not being treated. In 1998, law enforcement officers were more likely to be killed by a person with mental illness than by an assailant with a prior arrest for assaulting police or resisting arrest. And people with mental illnesses are killed by police in justifiable homicides at a rate nearly four times greater than the general public.

Treatment Advocacy Center Report May 2010 download PDF


POLICE ONE - Emotionally Disturbed Persons
Police One - EDP
Police One - Article

For the average citizen watching these events, it is a good lesson on the threats and complexity of use of force incidents that our law enforcement officers face at every turn. For you, these incidents are great chances to do a series of crisis rehearsals as you prepare you for how you would handle similar situations.


U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 02, 2009
Click here for the entire 38 page decision: Mann v. Taser Int'l., Inc., No. 08-16951

In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 and wrongful death action by the estate of a decedent against police deputies and the manufacturer of a Taser device used by police in apprehending decedent, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) plaintiffs' statement of material facts accompanying their opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment was convoluted, argumentative and nonresponsive, and thus the district court properly excluded it; 2) plaintiffs provided no admissible evidence to support their claim that use of the Taser caused the decedent's death; and 3) plaintiffs provided no evidence that defendants-deputies used excessive force or were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need.


MINDS ON THE EDGE - Facing Mental Illness, October 2009
Minds on the Edge Website

MINDS ON THE EDGE: Facing Mental Illness is a multi-platform media project that explores severe mental illness in America.

The centerpiece of the project is a television program airing on PBS stations in October 2009. This video component is part of a national initiative that includes extensive web content with tools for civic engagement, active social media on Facebook and Twitter, and an ambitious strategy to engage citizens, professionals in many fields, and policy makers at all levels of government. The goal is to advance consensus about how to improve the kinds of support and treatment available for people with mental illness.

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