My short bio: Hey guys, my name is Scotty and I work for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the Chicagoland area. I have a B.A. in Philosophy and an M.A. in Intercultural Studies & Community Development and have worked previously in Immigrant Legal Services and child welfare research in Latin America. I worked as a Chicago Paramedic for a while after college, where I saw how ridiculously bad our society's response to chronic mental illness can be. Now as part of my job I work with law enforcement officers, learning about their encounters with mental illness on the job and training them how to interact well with people having mental health crises. My goal is to help them get people into treatment whenever possible and avoid violent or demeaning confrontations. I don't pretend to be a leading expert in anything whatsoever, but since it's an interesting job I thought I'd share!

My Proof:

Comments: 939 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

larrymoencurly347 karma

How much does the average police officer know about dealing with the unarmed mentally disturbed, compared to in the past?

Also do you tell officers that telling somebody "calm down" never works?

thinkscotty740 karma

I uploaded this slide from one of my my powerpoints specifically regarding the phrase "calm down" just for you! In my opinion it's the most useless phrase anyone could ever use. Everything it communicates is wrong. 1) It tells the person that they aren't worth listening to, 2) It stops the individual from venting emotions and thereby de-escalating their symptoms, and 3) It tells the person that their concerns aren't valid. In roll play scenarios I run with the police, I specifically make them replace that phrase.

The average police officer knows a lot more than they used to. In fact, younger officers can often be highly knowledgable about mental illness because it's basically a requirement that officers have college degrees these days and a large number of them study psychology. Still, many times they quickly forget what they've learned and become cynical. Where the "older" cops have the advantage is in knowing that being the loudest person in the room doesn't always mean you're the most in control. So while they may have less "head knowledge" about mental illness they are usually calmer and less "ancy" than their younger colleagues.

EDIT: "Antsy". I never said I could spell.

LoudCommentor149 karma

That slide is amazing. So simple, so clear. Or maybe it's just the information that does it? It's always blows my mind how things like these can be so simple and understandable, and yet not be seen until it's pointed out to us.

I don't suppose there would be any chance of you sharing (perhaps privately) other slides of your presentation?

I also posted just now asking as a student physiotherapist, but to expand, I live in Aus and don't really have a grasp on where to get any particular training in mental health on the side. Any ideas?

thinkscotty3 karma

Wow -- thanks : ) I'd love to share my slides. Want to PM me your email?

Also I'd echo that Mental Health First Aid is a good option. I actually manage a MHFA program here in the states as a part of my job and a lot of people really love it.

Cyntheon220 karma

What would you say is your goal for police officers when it comes to identifying and dealing with mental illness? After all, police can't be trained to be full-blown psychologists and their "assessments" wouldn't be done in clinical settings and have to be done in seconds/minutes (as opposed to hours), so what is an acceptable midpoint that you're aiming for with your education when it comes to being able to detect mental illness and act accordingly?

thinkscotty342 karma

This is a great question. I am very upfront about making sure officers know that they're not expected to be clinicians. In fact, I always tell them I don't care if they can tell the difference between bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder, etc. my wife's a mental health therapist (in training) and if can take her months before she's willing to make a form diagnosis.

All I care about is that the officers can say, "okay this guy isn't just being a jackass or trying to lie to me -- he has a mental illness". At that point we give them a set of small changes to their response that will improve their interaction no matter the diagnosis. But it is surprising how little some officers know about mental illness so we try to cover the most important signs and symptoms of the more common disorders.

Aside from preventing an interaction from going downhill, officers can also decide to take someone to the hospital for emergency evaluation, either instead of arresting them, before arresting them. Or instead of doing nothing. They don't decide if the person needs to be committed, just that the person needs to be evaluated. By being able to recognize the illness, they can also provide extra resources to families and recommend that an individual go into a Mental Illness Court Alternative Program after they're arrested so that they get help and have a better chance of getting better.

EDIT: My wife says I am wrong and that it doesn't take "months" to get a diagnosis. It's just not a simple matter and that it requires nuance. : )

Seraphim98916 karma

What are some of the signs you have officers look for to determine whether some has a mental illness in those sort of tense situations?

krostenvharles42 karma

Not OP, but I'm a therapist for people with severe mental health struggles. An important piece of mental health first aid is exactly what OP said - it doesn't really matter the diagnosis/symptoms, as much as knowing basic intervention skills that will help across the board: staying calm and patient, offering choice, keeping statements simple, being direct about options, not arguing with delusions, etc.

Specific symptoms of psychosis that an officer might see in an agitated person would be high levels of paranoia or beliefs of persecution; extreme grandiosity (ie: belief that they are God or on a special mission, belief they are famous); ideas of reference ("the tv talks to me," "that billboard is about be"); of course, hallucinations, typically auditory, which can look like talking to unseen others or just responding to something within one's head that others don't hear (giggling, intensely focused eyes, etc); beliefs in mind-control or that other people are taking their thoughts; and very high levels of fear and anxiety, because let's be real - believing any of the above things are happening would be pretty intense and scary.

I'm talking specifically about psychosis, because most people with mental illness in my community, who interface with police often, have an illness that includes psychosis. Personality disorders are a whole different ballgame (and I'm not an expert in them), but often look like extreme reactions to circumstances that seem relatively mundane. So extreme anger, irritation, hysterical crying, appearing to be totally irrational (with the absence of psychotic symptoms), etc. on a day where maybe the police were called for something like a noise complaint. The personality disorders that are most likely to increase police contact are here. More about psychotic disorders here.

-Pin_Cushion-35 karma

staying calm and patient

This is likely a huge challenge. Every interaction I've ever had with police felt like they were late for something else, no matter if I was the victim of a crime or getting a ticket. It's something that is likely not emphasized in their training, but if someone's having a psychotic episode that's so out of control that the police are called then it's probably pretty intense.

Which means those responders need to be aware that resolving that situation without violence may take a very long time! There really aren't any short cuts I know of to getting someone who literally sees/feels spiders crawling all over their body (for example) to chill a little and focus on some stranger telling them to sit on the ground and be still.

But frustration and impatience will just guarantee that the encounter will end badly. I feel like police are often trained to seize control of a situation quickly and completely, but that strategy just gets people hurt when it's used on people with major mental issues.

thinkscotty24 karma

This is, in my experience, THE biggest challenge. Police are rushed and tired and stressed. Without taking a deep breath and being willing to sit down and spend real, significant time with a person they're not going to be able to get a whole lot done.

In reality, this is why programs like co-responding social workers and CIT officers should exist, to take this pressure off the officers in the first place.


It's a great goal, but with the high coincidence of homelessness with mental illness, there are not a lot of options for patrol - level officers. If the person needs substantial medical care, they can be booked for a 72 hour evaluation, but there is rarely enough resources for extended treatment.

Have you seen any other solutions being provided as an alternative?

thinkscotty229 karma

This is EXACTLY right. As I wrote in one of my comments above, one of the major problems is that we as a society haven't provided services that make sure people with mental illness maintain treatment. Our legal system makes it difficult to get confused/resistant people into treatment and we haven't adopted proactive models that have been proven to work in other countries - weekly social worker home visits, housing, etc. This ends up leaving cops very frustrated that beyond calming people down they don't have much to offer.

The best alternative IMO would be a system that saves both saves money and prevents crime by hiring social workers and therapists to go make sure people are maintaining treatment. Mental illness is highly treatable in todays day-and-age. The problem is that people don't have the capacity or resources to maintain their treatment. With a little extra help and oversight, individuals would be more likely to maintain treatment.

The homelessness and mental health epidemic is caused by a) A lack of public resources to help people with mental illness, b) US cultural attitudes (namely individualism) that expect everyone to make it on their own, even when their illness clearly prevents them from doing so, and c) A legal system that errs very far on the side of individual rights, preventing us from legally requiring individuals to take medications or treatment unless they commit crimes. Regarding the legal issues that "force" treatment, I won't comment personally as to whether it's good or bad. It's just a fact of life in the US, one that makes cops' jobs a lot harder and makes our mental health treatment more expensive than in other countries. But on the other hand it certainly prevents individual rights violations that could occur with a less lenient system.

Player_A115 karma

What mental illness do you feel is hardest for police officers to understand?

thinkscotty273 karma

Personality disorders, by far. This is true of the general public as well. Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder are otherwise entirely rational and healthy but engage in behaviors that can be very damaging to their friends and family.

While it can be fairly easy to have empathy for someone with schizophrenia or a suicidal person with depression, personality disorders are far more difficult to understand and therefore treat. We do know that while less than 1% of individuals experience Antisocial Personality Disorder, up to 16% of prison inmates have the disorder -- and they almost never get the help they need.

space_zombie112 karma

I know I'm a bit late to the party here, but I wanted to say thank you and it's great too see you doing this kind of thing. As someone who is aware of their personality issues, it's really difficult sometimes to control it, half the time I'm fully aware that I'm being a total bastard to people I care about but it's like watching someone else take control while I have t watch it unravel.

thinkscotty22 karma

Thank you for sharing this. I can't imagine how hard it is to live like that. I hope you can find a good counselor -- there are a lot of awesome new treatments that can really help people with personality issues. It sounds like you're aware of the issue, which is a good start.

absolut_chaos101 karma

I got a safety check from the police via my therapist at the time. I'm diagnosed BPD with major depression. Also I'm a woman. When they got to my house they threw me down on the ground, refused to talk to me or listen and then hauled me off to a local hospital who released me because they felt I wasn't a danger to myself (which I wasn't). It was humiliating.

thinkscotty15 karma

I'm so sorry this happened to you. This is the kind of thing we want to prevent. I would hope that the police would have treated you much better if they'd been thinking in terms of you having a mental health crisis rather than just "misbehaving".

making_mischief70 karma

How do you get cops to stop using guns in those situations, and instead defuse potential confrontation by other means? What's the biggest obstacle you have to overcome in getting then to think/act otherwise?

thinkscotty269 karma

This isn't always easy. Cops have been trained over-and-over-and-over again about being on the look out for any little sign of aggression, so they tend to see aggression even in places it doesn't exist. There's a lot to be said for less-lethal alternatives like Tasers, but these don't always work either. Last week I actually worked first-hand with an officer who had shot and killed a man with mental illness when his partner's taser failed.

But more than anything else we try to make sure officers know how to keep a situation from becoming confrontational in the first place. I bring in speakers who have mental illness and who've been arrested to try and humanize the disorders. That's always helpful. Some of the symptoms of mental illness can seem bizarre and make officers feel on-edge so it's always good if they've been exposed to the human side of illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Research shows -- and my experience confirms -- than an officer's personality and emotional response is far more important than their "head knowledge" of techniques, so the biggest impact I can have is shifting their thinking toward empathy. Again, that's not always easy.

Regarding techniques, however, I try hard to make sure officers understand that 99% of the mentally ill individuals they encounter aren't trying to misbehave or commit crimes. Usually they're confused. Their brain is lying to them, telling them to do or say things that don't correspond to reality. Professionals call this delusions.

Because people with mental illness aren't out to commit crimes, their motivations are very different than the average criminal for which cops have been trained. For example, the common criminal is likely to see the advantages of backing down and giving in when a cop looks "big and bad". So cops are trained to increase their forcefulness in order to influence a criminal.

Unfortunately, people with mental illness often respond in the exact opposite way. We know that mental illness is correlated with extreme levels of stress hormones that cause flight-or-flight reactions. This being the case, an officer who appears MORE threatening is more likely to cause the mentally ill person to run or try to resist. So we train officers to be an non-threatening as they can by talking quietly, not arguing, and making themselves physically small.

When the mind isn't functioning correctly it also takes much longer for the individual to take-in what the officer is saying. In many cases, the mentally ill person may have no idea what the police officer wants and needs a lot of time to understand it. We train officers to give the person far more time than they normally would before moving in, otherwise they risk making the individual resist simply because they don't understand. Moreover, one of the explicit symptoms of many mental illnesses is that they don't read body language and social cues well and they don't have as much control over their communication. When a person with mental illness is yelling, there's a very good chance they aren't as angry as they look. But cops interpret them as aggressive even though they really just are frustrated.

Finally, teach verbal interaction skills such as reflective listening and mindfulness techniques that draw individuals out of their own deluded reality and into the "real world".

In terms of the biggest obstacle -- let me list two.

  1. Officers are recruited with little-to-no attention paid to their empathy. Most officers tend to be "action men" by attitude -- they didn't sign up to be social workers. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that they'll spend 75% of their jobs working with at-risk populations like those with mental illness. So the personalities of many officers get in the way. Now, there are a LOT of very good, empathetic cops out there. But there should be more.

  2. Perhaps more importantly, our legal and medical system means a disproportionate burden in working with the mentally ill falls on the police. In many other developed countries we have proactive social work programs that can make home visits, etc. to make sure people are taking their medication and seeing their therapist. In the US we don't, which costs us a lot of time and money in the long run. So while I can sometimes be frustrated by police attitudes, in reality the fault lies more with our society's failure to give people with mental illness the services they need to stop them from entering and re-entering crisis situations over-and-over. Mental illness is extremely treatable. If we had a system to help people maintain treatment, cops wouldn't be put in these difficult situations as often.

originalusername0151 karma

I work as a security supervisor for a casino and I've been stressing for a long time to my boss that we should have this type of training. We deal with mentally ill patrons on basically a daily basis. My question is how important do you think it is for us to be trained properly?

thinkscotty61 karma

The motivations of someone with mental illness are very, very different than your average miscreant. Without accounting for those differences and adjusting your response, you're going to be more likely to trigger aggression and resistance in a mentally ill individual. There are a LOT of good and easy techniques to de-escalate an individual with mental illness, but unfortunately they are usually very different than standard police/security training protocols.

For this reason, I'd say it's very important. Not just to help the people, but to keep yourselves safe as well. A good training will mean you're going "hands on" far less often because you'll be able to calm the person down and get them to do what you want without getting physical. You can also avoid or shorten noisy and disruptive yelling matches. Maybe sell it to your boss like that!

Doctor__Acula42 karma

Recently there was an article in /r/worldnews that called out the fact that a very high percentage of fatal police shootings in the US were of mentally ill people. What are your thoughts on the use of lethal force by police officers in the US, and do you feel that more could be done to make other, non-lethal options more accessible and lethal options more difficult to access?

thinkscotty69 karma

This recent study from LAPD found that of the 38 individuals shot and killed by the department last year, almost half had active mental health symptoms. That sucks. It sucks that people end up getting killed because they have a medical disorder.

I feel some empathy for police regarding their use of lethal force and mental illness. I think it's justified in most cases, at least by our legal system. I was working last week with a cop who shot and killed a man with bipolar disorder a couple months ago when the man was trying to break down a door to some random person's house at 5am. The guy threw a hammer at the cops and then took a shooting stance, holding what later turned out to be a paint scraper. The cop's partner tried to taze the guy but missed, so this cop had to shoot. He did a good job, only firing twice -- none of this 16 rounds stuff. The cops have seen the same videos we have where police are shot and killed and their wives and kids are left alone. So in some ways I empathize with them.

Now that said, a whole lot of police officers make the situation worse by antagonizing an indigodual with mental illness and pushing them into a "fight or flight" response with the cops' aggressive attitudes. If they recognize mental illness for what it is and intentionally change their responses, I think a good number of situations could end differently.

I'm a big proponent of less lethal options. I think that a taser should always be a first option above a firearm and that unless the individual is pointing a firearm or is threatening others with a knife, cops should back off and give the situation time or use the taser rather than turning straight to lethal force. I think this is starting to happen more and more -- but unless cops know about mental illness in the first place then they have no tools to change what they're doing.

Finally, the biggest problem is probably that mentally ill individuals are left to fend for themselves when released from treatment. Other developed countries make sure that treatment is maintained with regular social worker visits, etc. and this prevents crises from happening in the first place. A similar program in the US lets departments take matters into their own hands by proactive policing. It's called the Crisis Intervention Team or CIT.

ali-babba40 karma

As a police officer, it is a balancing act. We have to protect others from the victim, the victim from the victim and ourselves from the victim. And sometimes these recommendations work in plenty of space all alone only threatening himself. Believe me, I don't want to hurt anyone and take great strides in preventing force. But I'll give you an example.

We responded to a suicidal person called in by the neighbor. Upon my arrival, twenty plus neighbor were around a screened in front porch. I could see the victim screaming with a knife to his throat to the point of slight bleeding and three young kids inside the enclosure. He was threatening to kill his kids and then himself.

We first removed all the neighbors as fast as possible, then through distractions were able to remove the kids when I forced my way into the back door through the house onto the front porch taking the kids to safety. All the while guns were drawn and this escalated things tremendously. But at that point, his safety was the least of our priorities. The kids were top, even above our own.

At this point overt aggressive actions were needed and at any point if he would have lunged towards the kids things would have gone south FAST. We were prepared for the worst but had to balance the risk to others to his own.

So now to my question. In situations like this, where real danger, real lives are actually at risk what do you recommend police do? For example, walk slow deliberately or in regards to contact and cover teams. Specifically when actions are required to avoid escalation.

thinkscotty9 karma

Hey thanks for commenting and thanks for your work. You guys have a hard job and get dumped on a lot.

I really don't think police are out to hurt anyone -- I've never gotten that sense. In the cases where violence is involved it seems to be kind of like the one you've described where things happen so fast that a measured and intentional response using the techniques I teach just isn't very possible, especially since your adrenaline is pumping and you're stressed out yourself.

This is why in most cases I really don't blame the cop for pulling the trigger. Those deaths are usually the fault of our society -- of voters who've built a country that doesn't get sick people the help they need in order to prevent them entering a crisis.

In terms of your question -- there's no magic solution. I always wish there was. I will say that we know for sure that appearing more of a threat is often the thing that triggers the aggressive "fight or flight" response in mental illness. It's hard to balance appearing nonthreatening while keeping yourselves and bystanders safe. I would say just overall slow down and quiet down. If the person is yelling, don't yell back. Speaking quietly will make them have to listen to pay attention to you and will not trigger as much of a scare instinct. Telling the person what you're doing before you do it to -- "hey man I'm here to keep you and everyone else safe, so I'm going to walk closer to you so we can talk, okay?"...that kind of thing. Then finally using teamwork. If you have enough officers there to cover you and your procedures allow it, holstering your weapon and maybe even sitting down might help you seem less of a threat. If you look like a threat, there's a lot less chance that individual is going to feel calmer and be more rational.

Also -- keep putting that peer pressure on your fellow officers! They'll listen to you WAY more than me, even if they seem to disagree. Most situations that go bad don't involve a gun...they just severely damage the individual's trust in the police in the future.

Hope that helps!

SausageManDan38 karma

As someone that struggles with Mental Disorders (specifically BPD as one).

What can we do to aid an officer if possible? I understand that if someone is completely psychotic it'd be pointless, but if I were to have a breakdown or the police were involved what can I say/do so they understand or help someone with a mental disorder best?

thinkscotty25 karma

Tell them that you have a mental health disorder. They might not be thinking in terms of mental illness when they take the call, maybe just thinking in terms of a domestic dispute or some other kind of call. It might not always help. Tell them "I'm not making an excuse and I'm sorry but I just want you to know that I have a mental illness and that I need help to change my behavior because I feel out of control" or something of that sort. Make sure they don't think you're making excuses or trying to argue with them -- that will put their defenses up as they tend to be fairly black and white thinkers -- because you want them to listen to you.

Perhaps tell them the name of your doctor or the medications you take and tell them what you want to do to get help. Get them thinking in term of you being someone who wants to get better and is scared rather than someone who's just "being a jerk".

The more you do to seem non-threatening, the better. If you're worked-up this can be hard, but try to sit down and keep your hands where they can see them. Try not to yell if you can. It's very hard, but do your best not to argue with the cops or with your family -- you want them to see you being reasonable and rational and if you're arguing that's going to hurt your case.

Hope this helps!

Throwaway2134711182135 karma

I have Bipolar Disorder. I have had interactions with police that were less than pleasant before.

Someone called the police when I expressed suicidal urges when I was 17 years old. I had a gun pointed towards my face from the beginning, the only things in my clearly visible hands was in 1 hand a bottle of pills, the other a bottle I had grabbed from my parents' liquor cabinet.

That was several years ago, but I can't help but think this type of training you are giving should be mandatory to be a police officer everywhere. I'm doing better now that I'm on medications that work, but a gun in my face in that situation really was not doing anything productive.

With that in mind, I am glad that you do what you do and I'd like to thank you. I have two questions:

  1. In your professional opinion, does the qualified immunity police officers have cause police to be more reactive than responsive? (to be clear with terms, reaction is more instinct, responsiveness is more reasoned)

  2. I see a lot of bad press for police officers lately, but I can't help but think that the larger picture isn't represented. "Routine traffic stop uneventful" isn't a selling headline. Do you have any statistics on outcomes you can share regarding responses from police officers specifically responding to something that indicates the suspect is mentally ill?

thinkscotty5 karma

Thank you for sharing, and really -- I'm sorry to hear about that experience. That can NOT have helped you get better. I hope we are starting to prevent situations like this. Regarding your questions...

  1. I certainly think that emotions and personalities play a much larger role in a police officers response than the amount of "head knowledge" they possess. That's why I focus so much in my trainings on the empathy piece -- on changing hearts. Stories from real people with mental illness have helped this a lot. Once they have their heart in the right place, they can begin to implement the response techniques -- without the right "heart", no change is likely to happen.
  2. I think cops get a worse rap than they usually deserve. I'm not naive -- there are some really bad cops out there. But the majority are not in it to be bullies. They just like a job with more action and often they want to help their communities. Statistics are improving, but slowly. Departments that implement CIT programs experience rather dramatic drops in the number of police brutality calls. Since the CIT program was implemented in Memphis, for example, they have more than halved their police brutality lawsuits and have reduced their number of shootings and tazerings by more than 40%. So those are good signs.

Player_A31 karma

What are some of the most common mental health issues you train about? What's one of the rarest?

thinkscotty69 karma

I try to match our training to what research shows police will encounter most often. A study by the APA shows that of all crimes, 3% are directly related to depression, 4% to schizophrenia, and a whopping 10% to bipolar disorders. This is because bipolar causes delusions and impulsive behavior but unlike other disorders, combines these with extreme energy and hyperactivity. This gets people into trouble.

So I focus a lot on bipolar. But police also respond to a lot of calls where no real crime has been committed - like someone hallucinating at a McDonalds or when parents are worried about their teen who's locked herself in her room for 3 days straight. This kinds of situations can be especially frustrating for cops because they don't really know what they're supposed to do to help. So we train them for these less severe interactions as well because it's often in these cases that they can do the most for the person while also preventing future crime.

The rarest disorders I spend time training on are probably Antisocial Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia, both of which affect less than 1% of Americans. But the nature of the disorders mean that police interact a lot with these individuals. I don't train on the rarer disorders like Multiple Personality Disorder simply because of time limits.

JFSOCC12 karma

How much distrust is there among the police in psychology as a science?

thinkscotty41 karma

I don't sense distrust as much as apathy. There are some very scientifically minded and socially conscious officers I meet and it's always refreshing to talk with them. But it's not so much that officers think psychology is bogus as that they think it doesn't really apply to their job. This is partially because they signed up to catch bad guys, not be social workers. But that's a frustrating response because they're NOT just there to catch bad guys -- they exist to keep the community safe, in whatever capacity that means. Departments are starting to adapt to that mindset and many recognize that psychology is an invaluable resource for that mission. But it's certainly not yet the norm.

da1inchpunch6 karma

Have you worked with departments in Texas and if so how did it go?

thinkscotty3 karma

I actually only work in the Chicagoland area. But I'm from Texas, so I hope they get these kinds of trainings too!

UKDMike2 karma

Hi Scotty. Thanks for taking the time to do an AMA.

American anti-racism activist Tim Wise says that law enforcement in the United States cannot be reformed. He says that it must be completely dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up. Do you agree or disagree with his assessment and why?

thinkscotty4 karma

Phew. Well I can understand his frustration. Personally, having worked as a Paramedic on the heavily black south side of Chicago, anyone who says that first responders are rarely prejudiced is incorrect. That was, at least, absolutely not my experience (and I'm white, btw). Most probably aren't actively and militantly racist or prejudiced -- they're just jaded by the severe social differences and haven't had the education and worldview background to understand these differences correctly and without becoming somewhat biased. And to be fair, it's very difficult not to get cynical when the interactions you have with one group of people are consistently more difficult and less productive than with others. Let me give you an example -- one of my paramedic partners used to get so mad waiting in line at restaurants on the south side because (as he put it), "why do black people take so long to order???". And this alone was enough to make his interactions with our black patients slightly less kind and effective. He didn't see the different cultural values that were at play and the way he'd been socialized to value speed at the expense of social engagement. It takes a good deal of a specific kind of education to understand relative cultural values, generational poverty, intercultural communication, etc. And most first responders and police simply don't have that. And unfortunately this means a lot of unfair stereotypes are placed on individuals of those groups to who they don't apply.

If I'm being honest, I think the problems in American police forces are significantly the fault of our broader American culture. We point fingers at the police, often times justifiably, but don't point out the cultural and social problems that we've failed to address that are putting police in a tough spot.

I know I've gone off on a tangent. Back to your question.

I guess I'd say no. Not really. First of all because I'm pragmatic enough to think that it would never, ever happen. And secondly because while police in the US do a lot of things wrong, they also do a hell of a lot of things right. Most officers are actually decently intelligent and socially savvy, in my experience, and by dismantling the entire system we'd lose a LOT of good.

Now with all that said there are some major, large-scale changes that I would personally like to see happen. Among these are new recruiting standards that emphasize different personality traits and preventative community policing as a mandate. Also making it easier to screen out or fire "problem" officers who give the majority of officers, who tend to be good people, a bad name. (Incidentally, these officers anger their colleagues as well.)

(These are personal observations and in no way representative of my organization, btw. In case my boss sees this.)

truuth3007-4 karma

Do you agree or disagree with this? Training cops to deal with mental illness is a waste of time. Protecting the public often requires making split second decisions, and if they have to stop and pause to think about every single person with a mental illness, that hinders their ability to do their job.

thinkscotty20 karma

I disagree. I think that a small minority of cases involve making split-second decisions, whatever the media may show. In fact the cops tell me that they only make an arrest on about 10% of their 911 calls -- most others are fairly mundane. Often police make the situation much worse if they don't respond appropriately to the mental health symptoms or they don't recognize the symptoms in the first place. I think that training cops makes them safer because it means they'll be less likely to trigger a "fight or flight" response from people with mental illness that makes them more dangerous.

Even better, research is clearly on this side. Departments with CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) trained officers have about 44% fewer officer injuries than departments that don't train. So it's not just about making the community safer, it's about making the officer safer as well. Source

LordandSaviorStalin-4 karma

You voting for Trump?

thinkscotty4 karma

Nope. Nope, nope, nope. In fact I wrote this funny little blog post to express my thoughts on the Donald.