Situations involving subjects with mental illness who are suicidal are increasingly common and can be challenging for responding officers. In October 2022, the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) adopted General Order: Responding to Behavioral Health Emergencies and Persons with an Altered Mental Status. Understanding the signs and symptoms of someone afflicted with mental illness, how to identify them, and the legalities of response are critical for law enforcement. MCPD recognizes the need for training to equip officers with effective communication and interpersonal skills, including stabilization and de-escalation techniques for subjects with an altered mental state.
With support from the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS), six MCPD representatives recently participated in a one-day, eight-hour virtual training session that addressed the legalities and challenges law enforcement endure when responding to suicidal subjects (National Tactical Officers Association, 2018). The training delivered by the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), introduces case law and varying viewpoints on policy and response decision-making as it relates to situations involving suicidal subjects.
Students explored the legal realities, examining State and Federal law considerations, common claims, constitutional requirements, special relationships, community caretaker function, and emergency aid doctrine. The course addressed decision-making considerations, and students engaged in discussions regarding safety priorities, decision-making parameters, and jeopardy. The training concluded with a discussion on alternative contemporary response options, looking at existing law enforcement programs throughout the United States with a proven track record.
With the completion of this course, MCPD understands the need for additional training to further reinforce departmental policies and procedures regarding interactions with individuals in an altered mental state. While building on this effort, MDERS aims to expand the continuing education and training of law enforcement personnel on their response to mentally distressed individuals at risk of suicide.
National Tactical Officers Association. (2018, July 1). Law Enforcement Response to Suicidal Subjects. Retrieved from National Tactical Officers Association: http://public.ntoa.org/default.asp?action=courseview&titleid=351