Supporting Those With Mental Illness: Rethinking the Approach to a Vulnerable Population

The communities in which police officers work encompass a multitude of individuals with different ages, genders, incomes, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, health statuses, and occupations. Because of these numerous differences among community members, policing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. While law enforcement officers have an obligation to serve and protect all people equally, how they accomplish this mission depends on a variety of contextual factors that can change dramatically and dynamically, not only from day to day, but also from call to call. The most effective officers, therefore, are those who are trained to read all varieties of people, situations, and circumstances and to adapt accordingly. Adaptive approaches are especially important for policing vulnerable populations, including people who are elderly, people experiencing homelessness, or people with disabilities, substance abuse issues, or physical or mental illnesses.