Crime Statistics Don’t Show Police Response to the Mentally Ill

I’ve blogged about this before and Director Comey’s comments on Tuesday reminded me of it again.

If police “success” or effectiveness is measured by reported crime statistics how do we account for all of the peace keeping  and order maintenance activities that police are required to do that don’t have an associated crime?  Like traffic enforcement – most are civil infraction tickets with a few misdemeanors thrown in (like driving without a license or a suspended license -those are crimes).  Like noise complaints and public nuisances.

One social order maintenance activity that is steadily increasing is dealing with the mentally ill — people who are acting out at home or in public, mentally ill people who want a ride to the hospital, walking down the middle of the street while hearing voices, stuff like that.  Suicidal threats or attempts – another version.  This is an area where there has been a decrease in governmental funding for services and as a result dealing with the resulting situations are left to the police.

Here is how it looks for us

  • 2013 – 78 cases
  • 2014 – 82 cases
  • 2015 – 121 cases
  • 2016 – 39 year to date

In this count I only used the cases where the officers coded it as dealing with the mentally ill.  Not all of the associated kinds of activities like the suicide attempts and other kinds of cases where mental health was a factor.  Starting in 2015 we are trying to get everything coded as mental health call where that is the most accurate code.

Not everything we do is crime related –actually it is only a fraction of what we do.  But we are called to perform many other tasks that no one else in society does.  That is the majority of our job.  So how should policing success be measured?