Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Policing and Mental Health: Let's Try Something Different

The King County Sheriff’s Office has recently launched a pilot program in Shoreline to improve police interactions with people with mental health and behavioral problems. At the centerpiece of the program called RADAR (Risk, Awareness, De-escalation and Referral) is a police database that stores information about people with severe mental disorders who are at risk at hurting themselves or others.

Inclusion in the database is entirely voluntary which eliminates many HIPAA concerns. Database information is not shared with other agencies.

The goal of collecting information, according to Scott Strathy, the King County Captain who runs the program, is to reduce the use of force in crisis situations.  The expectation here is that the more officers know about people in their communities with mental health/behavioral issues, the less likely they will use force when encountered with threatening situations. Officers able to access health issues, emotional triggers, and on call family and friends have tools to de-escalate threatening situations. RADAR will help officers meet at-risk residents and their families before crisis situations occur, and give them the opportunity to connect people with local service providers.

Would this kind of program work on Bainbridge? It’s worth investigation. Police reponse to mental disorders, to be successful, must involve community partnerships as well as specialized training. This kind of initiative would give the BIPD a unique opportunity to work with community members proactively to prevent tragic outcomes--and raise community awareness about mental health issues.

Seattle Times coverage of the Shoreline program here.

Update: Kitsap Sun article on Kitsap agencies' interest in information sharing--and crisis intervention officers--here.