Law Enforcement Response to Mental Health Crises: Citizen Risk Factors and Preferences for Social Policy

Published In

Police Practice and Research

Document Type


Publication Date



Despite having the potential to affect cooperation and support for law enforcement, community preferences for police training are generally unstudied. This paper seeks to understand (1) general community preferences for police training for responding to mental health crises, (2) where the public prioritizes this mental health crisis training relative to racial bias training, and (3) whether these preferences vary depending on respondent demographics and risk factors for police contact. Survey data from a general sample of Portland, Oregon residents (N = 259) shows public support for police training on responding to mental health crises, but the public as a whole is split over whether mental health, or racial bias training, should be prioritized as the best use of police training time. Logistic regression analyses demonstrate three main findings regarding the impact of respondent characteristics on preferences for police training: (1) black respondents appear concerned that, by drawing attention to mental health crises, police will be more limited in their responses to racial bias; (2) respondents facing the greatest, and those with the least, amount of risk in police/citizen encounters are most supportive of mental health crisis training; and (3) mental illness itself does not appear to affect support for police mental health crisis training. These differences in support for training need to be understood before law enforcement can cultivate community support for police officers and their training practices.



Persistent Identifier