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Response policy for law enforcement

A written policy helps officers determine the proper procedure when encountering an individual with mental illness in different scenarios.

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Local Examples

Dane County, WI Madison Police Department

  • The Madison Police Department has developed standard operating procedures to provide guidance for officers when they are responding to and serving people with mental illnesses.
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Los Angeles, CA Los Angeles Police Department

Tactical Disengagement

  • The Los Angeles Police Department provides officers with guidance in the appropriate use of tactical disengagement: an officer’s decision to leave, delay contact, delay custody, or plan to make contact at a different time and under different circumstances.
  • First responders may choose to strategically disengage to avoid resorting to force when the danger to the subject by self-harm is no longer imminent, and the subject has not committed a serious or violent crime.
  • Under the appropriate circumstances, tactical disengagement may improve officer safety, mitigate threats, reduce injuries, build public trust, and preserve life.

Excited Delirium

  • The Los Angeles Police Department provides guidelines for officers on encounters with a person in the clinical state of excited delirium.
  • Excited delirium (also called “agitated delirium”) is a medical emergency characterized by an acute onset of extreme agitation and bizarre and/or combative behavior that may present a serious threat to the public, to officers, and to themselves (as it may result in sudden death).
  • The department’s guidelines for addressing these challenges are consistent with its overarching principle of reverence for human life.
  • When an individual exhibits signs of excited delirium, a rescue ambulance shall be requested as soon as practicable to provide the needed emergency medical treatment.

Tactical De-escalation Techniques

  • The Los Angeles Police Department uses Planning, Assessment, Time, Redeployment and/or Containment, Other Resources, Lines of Communication (PATROL) as a de-escalation technique.
  • This technique does not require that an officer compromise his or her safety or increase the risk of physical harm to the public.
  • PATROL involves reducing the intensity of an encounter with a person suspected of a crime, having additional options to gain voluntary compliance, and mitigating the need to use a higher level of force while maintaining control of the situation.
  • The overall objective of any tactical encounter is to safely resolve the situation.

Weapons Other Than Firearms

  • Officers receive guidance about their options during encounters with people who are armed with weapons other than a firearm, including edged weapons and blunt weapons.
  • Edged weapons include any object capable of cutting, slashing, or stabbing. A blunt weapon is any object that can be used to strike a person and inflict serious bodily injury or death.
  • Resolving the situation safely using de-escalation techniques and proper planning should be the primary objectives for officers dealing with people who are armed with weapons other than firearms.
  • The dynamic nature of most incidents will require tactical plans to be flexible, and officers need to adapt their plan as additional information or factors become known.

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Policy & Practice


1 - Reduce bookings into jail

Last updated: April 21, 2019