James Alan Fox, Henry J. Steadman
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Law, Policy, and Society Program.
Jail Diversion Programs, Police officers, Mental illness
Law and Society | Public Policy
Police departments across the United States estimate that between 7 and 10% of calls for service involve an individual with a mental illness. Responses to these calls are limited by inadequate officer training and a lack of understanding about the mentally ill and available resources to assist them. Police encounters with mentally ill persons can result in unnecessary arrests that might be avoided if clinical assistance were more readily available. Ranging from mental health training for officers to co-responder (clinician and officer) models, Jail Diversion Programs have emerged to reduce such arrests.
Research in this field has historically focused on the development of a typology of jail diversion activities, evaluating jail diversion rates, and assessing the immediate impact of mental health training on police officer attitudes toward the mentally ill. Co-responder models have received little attention in the literature and the research focusing on these models has been mostly descriptive. There have been no studies that evaluate the impact of a co-responder model on police officer attitudes. Seeking to fill this gap in the literature, the current research evaluates the impact of a co-responder Jail Diversion Program upon police officer attitudes toward individuals with a mental illness, in two Massachusetts communities. Officer attitudes were assessed using a questionnaire that incorporates material developed and validated by other researchers in the field.
The findings of this study reveal that officer's working in those departments with Jail Diversion Programs report greater tolerance and acceptance of mentally ill persons living in their communities and more strongly endorse their role in managing persons with mental illness than their counterparts in non- Jail Diversion Program departments. Though not the primary rationale behind the development of Jail Diversion Programs, its impact on the attitude of police officers toward the mentally ill may influence the tone, outcome and risks associated with these interactions and support additional replication and further consideration by policy makers. Having more tolerant, informed and confident police officers responding to calls involving the mentally ill may reduce officer-involved shootings and injuries, which would benefit the community at large, the department they serve and the individual officers on the street who encounter individuals with a mental illness. The outcomes of this research support increased funding of pre-arrest co-responder Jail Diversion Programs.
Sarah E. Abbott
Abbott, Sarah E., "Evaluating the impact of a Jail Diversion Program on police officer's attitudes toward the mentally ill" (2011). Law, Policy, and Society Dissertations. Paper 22. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20000838
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