Measuring the Effectiveness of Policing Practice in Fixated Individuals with Mental Illness.

Dr Emily Corner1, Dr Kelly Hine1
1The Australian National University, Acton, Australia

Background: Recent inquests have highlighted a demand for better policing practices when interacting with persons with mental illness (PMI). In the US, approximately 25% of fatal shootings by police involved PMI. In Queensland (Australia), persons with a history of mental illness made up 77% of fatal shootings by police. While in the UK, 47% of deaths in police custody involved persons who suffered from mental health problems.

Research Objectives:Indeed, research acknowledges the overrepresentation of PMI in police-citizen interactions and recommended that the most effective strategy is to adopt crisis intervention teams consisting of police officers and mental health workers.

Methods:This paper utilises a unique dataset provided by the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) to move forward from the current knowledge base surrounding police interactions with PMI. FTAC is a joint police and mental health unit within the Metropolitan Police in London (UK) developed to collate, assess, and manage threatening communications to public figures most often involving PMI. The data is rich both in terms of the individual making the threats and, in the case of them trying to act upon it, the (attempted) offence itself. The data is categorised across approximately 200 variables including qualitative and quantitative aspects. The years 2013-2016 cover over 3000 cases alone.

Results:This paper assesses behaviours across both communicators and approachers, and the policing and medical responses to such.

Implications:The results provide implications for policing and mental health professionals who are tasked with working with individuals in the mental health space.


Dr Emily Corner is a Lecturer of Criminology at the Centre for Social Research and Methods at the Australian National University. Prior to joining ANU, Emily was a Research Associate at the department of Security and Crime Science at University College London, working on projects examining lone and group-based terrorism, radicalisation, mass murderers, and fixated individuals. Her doctoral research focused on examining mental disorders and terrorist behaviour, and won the Terrorism Research Initiative’s Thesis award in 2016. She has published in leading psychology, forensic science, criminology, threat assessment, and political science journals. She has worked on research projects funded by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the European Union, the National Institute of Justice, and the Department of Defence. Prior to her doctoral research she worked across step-down, low, and medium secure psychiatric hospitals, in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

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.



Honorary Professor Duncan Chappell
1University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

In western societies since the earliest mental health legislation in the nineteenth century. It is only in quite recent times, however, and especially since the era commencing in the 1960’s of the widespread closure of most asylums for the mentally ill, that this role has become the subject of systematic research and analysis. This paper reviews these developments and the still evolving literature that has surrounded them. Police were suddenly confronted, especially in urban centres, with large numbers of people with disabling mental illness for whom there was no longer a residentially based mental health service, and frequently little in the way of a community based program of mental health care and social services. Progressive police forces sought new approaches to their involvement with PMI. The scholarly literature is reflective of this search from which emerged a variety of policing models, some more effective than others, designed to change police beliefs, attitudes and training about PMI while improving pathways for them to be referred to mental health services rather than processed through the criminal justice system. The paper concludes with references to several newly emerging issues affecting PMI as well as to the particular challenges of extending progressive PMI response models to police agencies in less developed parts of the globe.


Duncan Chappell, a lawyer and criminologist, is an Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney, and a Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of NSW. He is a past President of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal; a former Deputy President of the Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal; and a former Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology.


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