Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP
Dr. D’Arienzo, Florida Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, had the pleasure to discuss with Vic Micolucci, the benefits of law enforcement using body cameras when responding to calls as well as the challenges officers face when they respond to a call related to a person with mental illness. Greater than 10 percent of calls consist of a person with mental illness. Body cams provide the officer with protection and give the public a better perspective regarding these potentially dangerous situations and also protect the person in the event the officer does not respond appropriately. Further, Mr. Micolucci and Dr. D’Arienzo spoke of the challenges when officers are faced with a person with mental illness. Although rarely dangerous, because these individuals may be unpredictable or unstable there are occasions that even the best crisis intervention or deescalation training fails to prepare officers for situations and body cams shed light on these situations too.
In addition to the issue of having adequate services for the mentally ill, often individuals with mental illness refuse services or deny that they are suffering from paranoia, self harm, or other potentially dangerous thoughts and therefore are released from commitment, Baker Act, or hospitalization. It is unfortunate that we repeatedly hear stories of someone suffering from terrible mental illness, their family being unable to get them the services needed and/or the person refuses these services, and then a tragedy occurs. Our law enforcement officers are then often on the front lines responding to these individuals. To better address this dilemma, families and friends need to be better educated about how to ensure their loved one is properly addressing their mental health needs. Certainly, there will be some individuals that refuse services despite services being available and despite their family and friends doing everything possible to get them help.