Therapeutic Policing and Persons with Mental Illness: Utilising Specialised Response Models

Miss Helen Punter1
1University Of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

As first responders, police officers are usually the first called when assistance is required, this is particularly true for persons with mental illness (PMI) when they are experiencing an actual (or perceived) mental health crisis. Therefore, the police, not mental health professionals, are usually the first point of contact. This point of contact can influence outcomes for PMI in both positive and negative ways. Therapeutic Policing, a new framework, examines the laws that police officers administer and the policies and procedure that regulate officers’ actions, to consider whether these components that govern police work and actions are affecting an individuals’ emotional and psychological well-being in a positive (therapeutic) or negative (anti-therapeutic) manner. Ensuring that these legal rules, policies and procedures are therapeutic in nature would allow police officers to act as agents in providing therapeutic outcomes at the entry to the criminal justice system. The current research utilised interviews with frontline mental health service workers, as proxies for PMI, in order to explore PMI experiences during their interactions with police during mental health crises. Preliminary results indicate that existing specialised response models of collaborative relationships between police services and mental health professionals could contribute to more therapeutic outcomes for PMI regarding their interactions with the police. These types of specialised response programs will be discussed as models of best practice.


Helen Punter is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Queensland Australia. She completed her undergraduate studies and honours, in Criminology and Criminal Justice, at Griffith University, Queensland. Helen’s most recent contribution to the policing literature is a book chapter on preventive justice titled: Policing persons with mental illness: Preventive justice or preventing injustice? Previous publications include an article on police move-on powers in Queensland titled: Move-on powers: New paradigms of public order policing in Queensland, and a contributing author to a publication on restorative justice conferencing titled: Agreements in restorative justice conferences: Exploring the implications of agreements for post-conference offending behaviour.



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