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.

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