NPF Releases New Report with Results from National Survey on How Small Law Enforcement Agencies Respond to Calls Involving Persons in Crisis

Prior to the survey, little was known about the adoption of specialized responses by small agencies with fewer resources, less occasion to see persons in crisis, and fewer nearby mental health facilities.

January 24, 2021

The National Police Foundation, with funding support from Arnold Ventures, recently published the results from a national survey that examined how small law enforcement agencies are preparing for incidents involving persons in crisis as a result of mental health or substance abuse issues.

Police frequently respond to calls involving persons with behavioral health needs, particularly those with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. These calls are often time-consuming and potentially dangerous for officers and the persons experiencing crisis. Large and medium-sized law enforcement agencies have increasingly adopted specialized police response models, such as Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) and Co-responder programs, that entail collaboration between law enforcement, mental health agencies, and medical facilities. However, little is known about the adoption of specialized responses by small agencies with fewer resources, less occasion to see persons in crisis, and fewer nearby mental health facilities.

Between February and October of 2020, NPF distributed a national survey to a random sample of 380 municipal police and sheriff’s offices with between 10 and 75 sworn officers. The survey aimed to explore the extent to which small law enforcement agencies have adopted specialized response models for dealing with calls involving persons in crisis, the amount of training provided in this area among small agencies, and what percentage of small agencies employ CIT-certified officers or are part of a regional CIT partnership.

The survey finds that all but twelve responding agencies had adopted some form of specialized response model for dealing with calls involving persons in crisis. More than six in ten agencies has provided some form of crisis response training to all patrol officers, and three in ten provided training to some patrol officers. Three in ten agencies had at least one officer in the agency who had been CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) certified and half of the agencies reported being part of a regional CIT partnership. The regional partnerships gave small agencies access to highly skilled law enforcement and mental health staff, but response times could be long, regional skilled staff unavailable at all times of the day, and mental health facilities a lengthy drive away. The death of George Floyd, which occurred during the administration of the survey, encouraged four in ten survey respondents to reassess their current approach to dealing with persons in crisis.

In addition to this survey, NPF is conducting site-visits with six innovative agencies in order to gather detailed information on their crisis response model and assess the potential for conducting a  future impact evaluation. NPF will produce a final report later in 2021 and will disseminate the findings to relevant stakeholders to inform the ongoing development of crisis response preparedness and implementation within small agencies.

To view the full survey report, please visit: https://www.policefoundation.org/publication/how-small-law-enforcement-agencies-respond-to-calls-involving-persons-in-crisis-results-from-a-national-survey/

For questions about the survey, please contact Rob Davis, Chief Social Scientist, at rdavis@policefoundation.org.