A strategic approach to police interactions with people with a mental illness

Terry G. Coleman, Dorothy Cotton


Since the birth of modern policing in the early 1800s, police agencies have interacted with persons with mental health problems (P/MHP) whether in crisis, as victims, or in a support role. Given the nature of policing, this is unlikely to change. What has changed is how police handle these situations. This paper identifies and explains the two phases of the evolution, to date, of police responses and the now necessary third phase. It is time for police agencies to apply a focussed corporate approach to this important social issue and to establish a mental health strategy (third generation) in order to clearly take a strategic approach in concert with relevant community agencies to improve outcomes for P/MHP who come into contact with police personnel. While many standalone programs have been primarily reactive, this paper makes the case that a strategic approach enables the design and implementation of multiple programs congruent with the mental health strategy that are proactive as well as reactive, all with the aim of improving the outcomes for persons with mental illness and mental health problems.


Co-response team; proactive; reactive; Mental Health Commission of Canada; mental health strategy; strategic leadership/management; TEMPO

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.35502/jcswb.9


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ISSN: 2371-4298 (Online)