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Police training session focuses on mental illness

Original post made on Sep 20, 2012

In a bid to reduce conflicts and better help mentally ill people, Palo Alto police officers completed an innovative training program Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 20, 2012, 3:16 PM

Comments (15)

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Posted by More-Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm

It would be nice if the police kept records of their interactions with people they believe to be mentally ill. Media accounts of the tragic outcomes of some of these interactions remind us that that there are mentally ill people who often end up dead when they confront officers. Tracking these interactions would help to gauge the extent of mental illness in the general population.



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Posted by Frozen
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm

More-facts, if the city council un-froze one of the police department dozen frozen positions maybe they could have someone track those stats for you.


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Posted by More-Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Tracking this statistic is something that could be done with a data base query that would not take very long, if the police knew how to use computers. The Auditor's SEA would be a good place to publish the stat, taking only a column to display the data.

But it's doubtful that this will happen.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm

I am pretty sure that tracking police encounters with mentally ill would do nothing to gauge the extent in the general population, the majority who never have encounters with the police. That is why this will not happen.


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Posted by More-Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2012 at 5:56 am

> I am pretty sure that tracking police encounters with
> mentally ill would do nothing to gauge

And what makes you so sure?

If the police encounter someone whom they decide has mental problems, they will not probably call in County mental health resources, rather than referring the case to the DA for prosecution. Simply counting the number of referrals to mental health is all that is called for here.


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Posted by More-Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2012 at 6:55 am

they will not probably call->they will probably call


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Posted by Silley
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 21, 2012 at 10:37 am

Maintaining these types of records is maintaining intelligence. Maintaining intelligence on people is illegal. As usual, people commenting on how police work should be done when people who are not involved in police work no nothing about how law enforcement works.


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Posted by silly
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 21, 2012 at 10:38 am

Simply counting the number of referrals is not what you originally stated. You said they should track interactions, which does not necessarily mean a referral. And either way it would still not help determine the extent of mental illness in the general population, just those that contact the police. (my original point, which you missed) The police do not diagnose people with mental problems, the mental health professionals do, rightly so. They are only being asked to recognize some of the indicators, as this story details, to hopefully reduce those violent encounters. I give them "kudos" for at least trying this training. A referral from a cop means that someone has a mental illness? You don't think they know how to use computers, but you want them to make this diagnosis..? I don't. Please check out NIMH.


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Posted by More-Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2012 at 12:38 pm

> Maintaining these types of records is maintaining intelligence.
> Maintaining intelligence on people is illegal

How absurd. What laws can you cite that restrict the police from keeping records on their call outs?

The police maintain records on people who are arrested, and presumably they have the right to keep field reports that document interactions with people involved in situations where the police are called, for whatever reason, that were not arrested.

In this case, none of this information would be commonly considered as "intelligence" in the way that an "intelligence agency" might collect information--on people who have done nothing wrong.

But if you really believe that the police have no right to keep records--contact your local District Attorney and see what they have to say about the matter.


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Posted by More-Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm

> And either way it would still not help determine the extent of
> mental illness in the general population, just those that
> contact the police

Mental illness is kind of a taboo area. Estimates of this malady in the general population are disturbingly high:

Web Link

Mental Disorders in America

Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.1 When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people.2 Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness.1 In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada.3 Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity.1

In the U.S., mental disorders are diagnosed based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).4
++++

> about one in four adults — suffer from a
> diagnosable mental disorder in a given year

If this is true, then police agencies all over the US need to spend a considerable amount of time training to recognize these disorders, so that people who are "sick" are not wrongly accused of "crime".

Of course, if the police find that they are not seeing the kinds of interactions that suggest that this 1 in 4 estimate is accurate, the folks at the National Institute of Mental health, and others, would be given a reality check for their estimation process.

Either way, it would pay for the police to track, and publish, this number so that the public can understand how large a problem people with mental health problems are for their local police agencies.

> Interactions vs referrals

Perhaps tracking interactions is not as effective as tracking referrals, since a police officer with a few hours training should only call for professional help. It would be highly likely for inexperience police officers to make the wrong call, producing inflated numbers for interactions with people showing mental health problems.

Either way, producing this information from computerized databases would be very simple.


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Posted by Anymouse
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Yes, this will definitely help Palo Alto since we now have the Opportunity Center with all the NON Palo Altans there that we now are helping with food, medication and lodging. They offer their meds to people at Lytton Plaza. So, the PAPD can help these people since they are SELLING their medications which makes them 'off their meds'.

Alternately, I'm sure there are mentally ill residing in Palo Alto, and this can help them.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 21, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Here we go again:

"If this is true, then police agencies all over the US need to spend a considerable amount of time training to recognize these disorders, so that people who are "sick" are not wrongly accused of "crime"."
--sometimes the presence of a mental disorder does not remove that person from any responsibility for a crime. But this is a much larger argument that is played out in the court, if relevant at all. And how do you know the police are not already taking measures you don't always read about to combat this?

--What kind of "interactions" would suggest a 1 in 4 estimate is accurate? Violent ones, benign ones? How many interactions did you have today with people you did not know had a mental illness?

---Pay for the police to track? They already do with their records, you said it yourself. To prove they should take classes to recognize warning signs? Oh yeah, they are so says the article.

"It would be highly likely for inexperience police officers to make the wrong call, producing inflated numbers for interactions with people showing mental health problems."
---So you are saying the data will be flawed. But you insist they track the flawed data. That will surely pay off.

Let's just take this from the article and stop trying to tell others what they should do: Police are trying to better recognize symptoms to resolve conflicts with persons with mental illnesses in a positive, helpful manner with regards to the safety and well being of all.

Please....just stop.....





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Posted by More-Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2012 at 8:55 am

> And how do you know the police are not already taking measures
> you don't always read about to combat this?

Good point. But why should the police to be open about this sort of police response to people with mental health problems? Transparency is a good thing, isn't it?

> So you are saying the data will be flawed.

Never said that at all.

> But you insist they track the flawed data. That will surely pay off.

Depends. For starters, what makes you believe that data that might initially be in error can not be corrected as post-incident processing clarifies a given situation? This situation already exists with police data. A person is arrested, but no charges are brought because the police realize that this person is innocent. They will no doubt track/publish their arrests, but do not seem to publish the referrals to the DA's Office. Once referred to the DA's Office, some cases are dropped, and others are not proven at trial. So—the local agencies published number of arrests does not provide a complete picture of the effectiveness of the police. It is a metric for the activity of the police, however.

> and stop trying to tell others what they should do
> Please....just stop.....

These are suggestions about police transparency—nothing more. The only person "tell others what to do" seems to be you.

It's astounding how anti-intellectual so many people in Palo Alto seem to be.


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Posted by I agree
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2012 at 10:56 am

They should not use handcuffs. I felt so bad when they had to handcuffed my 13 years old daughter because she was suicidal. There should be another way. Also the neighbors saw when they took her out to the police cars in handcuffs. I felt so bad when I heard the sounds of the handcuffs clicking as they put it on her.


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Posted by Misha
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2012 at 10:18 am

The Palo Alto Police and Fire Departments are the busiest public servants around and even as they rush around the city attending to all manner of crises and situations, they devote time and energy to doing an even better job. Thank you Chief Burns for having the wherewithal and the heart to recognize that the needs of those with mental health issues are different and thus need to be handled differently.

I empathize with the parent who was devastated when her distraught daughter was placed in handcuffs. Let's hope that the increased awareness and training will reduce the instances when our loved ones in an extreme emotional state are treated like criminals at risk of self-harm and more like a person in emotional crisis.


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