Mental health and deaths after police contact in the United States

David Baker1
1Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom

This paper examines how police encounters with persons with mental illness (PMIs) in the US can lead to deaths after police contact. It uses qualitative semi-structured interviews with the bereaved family members of forty-three citizens who died after police contact in the US in the period 1999-2015. It considers the factors that led to their death, and how families perceive police actions led to the death of their loved one. The paper discusses how police have become a de facto response to a healthcare issue and how the use of force appears to be inextricably linked with these interactions. Interventions such as enhanced training and the implementation of Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs) are assessed in terms of their capacity to improve the outcomes of police interactions with PMIs. The paper concludes that the policing of PMIs in the US is problematic; that force is still disproportionately used on these citizens; and that they are disproportionately more likely to die as a result of contact with police than citizens without mental health conditions.

David’s research focuses on police accountability in relation to deaths after police contact. His book ‘Deaths after police contact: Constructing accountability in the 21st century’, published by Palgrave-Macmillan received positive endorsements from Prof Robert Reiner (LSE) and Prof Elliott Currie (University of California). His current research focuses on the impact of these deaths on the families of the victims of police violence in the United States. This research was undertaken as part of a Fulbright scholarship award and will produce papers to be published throughout 2018 and 2019. David is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Coventry University, and in 2013-14 won the University’s ‘Inspirational Teacher of the Year’ award.



The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.
© 2018 Conference Design Pty Ltd