How Small Law Enforcement Agencies Respond to Calls Involving Persons in Crisis: Results from a National Survey

Abstract:

Police frequently respond to calls occasioned by people with behavioral health needs (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 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. This report presents findings from a survey of how small law enforcement agencies respond to incidents involving persons in crisis as a result of mental health or substance abuse issues. It is based on responses of a random sample of 380 municipal police and sheriff offices with between 10 and 75 sworn officers between February and October, 2020. 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 shooting 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.

New Publication Released: How to Conduct an After Action Review – A Guidebook for Agencies of All Sizes

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the National Police Foundation will soon be releasing a guidebook detailing how to conduct an after action review (AAR). The guidebook defines the AAR process following incidents and exercises of all sizes and provides an overview of their importance to law enforcement and public safety agencies committed to creating a culture of learning. It also identifies common themes and brief summaries of key findings, recommendations, promising practices, and lessons learned from 20 AARs of mass violence and mass demonstration incidents. It concludes with a detailed step-by-step guide for law enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders to conduct an AAR with explanations of each step, how the steps tie into the larger process, and additional guidance.

The guidebook also lays out evidence supporting the need to incorporate the AAR process into everyday activities and provides a solid framework and suggestions for undertaking this work in law enforcement agencies of all sizes. AARs are critical to organizational learning and strengthening responses in an evolving and increasingly complex environment. Creating and instilling a culture that encourages continuous learning is vital to ensuring first responder safety and wellness and building effective responses to enhance community safety.

As part of the COPS Office’s effort to provide guidance and education about AARs, a new eLearning course designed for all levels of police practitioners—developed by the Virginia Center for Policing Innovation (VCPI)—has also been released on the COPS Office Training Portal.

To access the AAR Guidebook, visit the COPS website at https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/Publications/cops-w0878-pub.pdf, and to sign up for the eLearning course, visit the COPS Office Training Portal at https://copstrainingportal.org/after-action-review-and-reporting-an-introduction/. For more information about conducting an AAR, the AAR process, and a library of mass violence and mass demonstration AARs visit https://www.policefoundation.org/critical-incident-review-library/.