“Madison Police Department has represented excellence in community policing for many years, and their clear commitment to serving people with mental illnesses and those in crisis is a natural extension of this philosophy. As a leader in the field of specialized law enforcement responses to people with mental illnesses, the department is devoted to providing prompt assistance to other jurisdictions in need of help to create, improve, or expand their own programs.” Blake Norton, Project Director, Law Enforcement Initiatives, CSG Justice Center
As one of six law enforcement/mental health “learning sites” selected by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center (with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance), the Madison (WI) Police Department (MPD) is available to offer guidance to other jurisdictions on how best to respond to people with mental illnesses. Over the years the MPD has developed a number of innovative strategies to improve the outcomes of these encounters. The department conducts outreach to people with mental illnesses in the community, provides intensive scenario-based training for officers, and collects data. Jurisdictions starting a law enforcement/mental health collaboration or looking to enhance an existing collaboration can benefit greatly from MPD’s vast experience in this area.
One of the unique aspects of MPD’s work with people with mental illnesses is its Mental Health Liaison Program. Mental Health Liaison Officers are patrol officers who either volunteer or are selected to serve in this function—conducting outreach to citizens with mental illnesses, coordinating follow-up efforts with partner agencies and mental health providers, and attending relevant community meetings. This outreach strengthens police-community relations and invests the police department in the long-term outcomes of people with mental illnesses who have come into contact with law enforcement.
MPD Chief Noble Wray has made training a priority for the department. MPD has its own training academy, in which instruction is grounded heavily on problem solving and community policing principles. MPD provides intensive training on mental health issues, beyond what most departments offer. Mental health topics are revisited throughout the academy and integrated into general topics such as report writing, professional communications, and defense and arrest tactics. MPD’s academy also provides 60 hours of intense training which includes scenario-based role play training on mental health responses that covers de-escalation techniques, crisis management for different types of disabilities such as Alzheimer’s, and emergency detentions. Given that MPD conducts its own training academy, department trainers are able to tailor training to best suit the needs of the department.
MPD has also advanced data collection practices to enhance its response to people with mental illnesses. Many departments know that data collection, analysis, and resource allocation can be a struggle. MPD has expanded efforts to collect critical safety information and data about repeat crisis call locations and certain individuals suspected to have mental illnesses that officers on patrol can access through a secure, internal network. Mental Health Liaison Officers capture necessary information using a standard template that helps provide the best response possible to people suspected of having mental illnesses, repeat callers, and/or persons in crisis.
Chief Wray and his command staff have made a concerted effort to improve the department’s response to people with mental illnesses. Likewise, they are committed to supporting other agencies interested in learning from their experiences.
If you would like to request technical assistance from MPD on the issue of improving law enforcement responses to people with mental illnesses, or for more information on the program model of the Madison Police Department, click here and download the Technical Assistance Request Form. You can also contact MPD Lieutenant Kristen Roman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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